Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book we just can’t seem to get enough of. This week Arpad recommends the collected edition of ‘There’s Nothing There’, out now from Black Mask Studios.

Cover to 'There's Nothing There' TPB. Art by Maria Llovet and Phil Smith/Black Mask

Cover to ‘There’s Nothing There’ TPB. Art by Maria Llovet and Phil Smith/Black Mask

By Arpad Okay. Characters like the ones you find in There’s Nothing There should not be this great. Total trend celebrities. Spoiled rich Millennial clichés. Hedonists without apology, conscience, or consequence. And somehow, they’re utterly charming.

This book is about an Instagram sensation dragging her friends into a supernatural murder conspiracy and damn if these aren’t the kind of folks you’d want to come out on top. Not because they’re underdogs, or pitted against an evil that must be stopped. They’re just delightful, authentic people. Alien in lifestyle but emotionally relatable in the utmost. What we’ve got here is the intersection of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Will the girl who lives for likes, the fashion designer sans inspiration, the soft boy, and the housekeeper turned special agent be able to outfox a demon cult? I certainly hope so. It’s not a comedy, it’s kind of alarming, and in the end it’s an engrossing read.

There’s Nothing There is more than just twenty-somethings with their tits out (though that will certainly and repeatedly come to pass). Patrick Kindlon has conceived a reality-ripping horror story in the vein of Lovecraft’s best, updated with today’s affluent trappings. The ghosts and demons haunt our heroes’ waking lives, infect their screens, drive them to do the absurd and the obscene. If you’re drawn to the works of Tim Powers, you’re going to feel right at home in this book. It’s snappy, whimsical, dangerous, unique, bleak, and ultimately a much more complex tale than you’d expect from its early chapters.

The tropes hit hard in the beginning, what with the summoning orgies and incalculable wealth, but there’s hidden depth to There’s Nothing There kept secret from the reader’s first glance. This is horror at its most powerful, it draws you in, you don’t realize you’ve lost your footing until it’s too late, and the darkness, the story, it swallows you.

The inky, exquisite art style of Maria Llovet fits the book’s vibe to a T. There’s something indescribable about the balance she strikes between realistic and abstract, loose contour lines that might not connect and liberal pools of shadow paired with a solid grip on depicting figures. She evokes the newspaper broadsheets of Milt Caniff and the occult hidden within the academics, like Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Truth Coming Out of Her Well remade for the cover of Jugend. Approaching her subjects with a style greater than real life allows us to connect spiritually with what we’re reading. Then, when the world falls apart, the ghosts, the watching eyes, they feel in sync with the look of the world. There’s no commercial gloss but the talent is there and speaks for itself.

Interior pages from 'There's Nothing There' TPB. Art by Maria Llovet and Jim Campbell/Black Mask

Interior pages from ‘There’s Nothing There’ TPB. Art by Maria Llovet and Jim Campbell/Black Mask

The sound effects emotionally dominate scenes but never obscure the reader’s view. The emoji selection is on point. And those title pages, ghastly windows into the book through which its characters walk, the name of the thing itself, cut through negative space, they are as good as it gets. There’s unique, flawless art, talented comic craft, and a story that sinks its teeth in so deep. It all adds up to a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

I appreciated There’s Nothing There more with each consecutive chapter. It’s just as much a mystery as it is a horror story, and the pacing is beautiful. The closer to the center you come, the less it seems you really know the maze. Yet the intrigue takes a back seat to the banter. The characters grow more human and relatable the further away from normality their lives get. With spectral killers of many kinds constantly tightening the noose, the absurd boujee bullshit serves as a wall between the screen queens and the dangers they must face. The social media ridiculousness is made to serve the story, key to the plot and not some acrimonious lifestyle judgment. A lesson lies in There’s Nothing There: underestimating a starlet’s autonomy will leave your empire in ruin.

Black Mask Studios/$12.99

Written by Patrick Kindlon.

Art by Maria Llovet.

Letters by Jim Campbell.

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