Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘The Plot’ #1, out September 25 from Vault Comics.

'The Plot' #1: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘The Plot’ #1. Art: Joshua Hixson/Vault Comics

THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘THE PLOT’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Clyde Hall. What could be better than an annual horror imprint to go along with the lengthening shadows of autumn? Macabre titles to pore over in the wee hours with cups of your favorite hot beverage, the warm glow of the furnace diminishing the chill from stormy winds as they whip the last vestige of leaves from skeletal trees? It’s a concept that gives haunted hayrides and s’mores a run for top marks in the Best Things About Fall list.  

The Plot is scheduled as the first Nightfall title and it premieres September 25. Writers Tim Daniel and Michael Moreci have embraced the classic horror genre with beloved tropes, filling #1 with everything fans of the fiendish could expect. There’s a rundown manse, a Maine location surely only one county removed from Castle Rock, inherited madness, untimely demise of the direst sort, a black sheep brother, and two kids stalked by… we aren’t certain just what. Mental unwellness? Family curse? A menacing and otherworldly entity slumbering in a muck-filled bog? 

On his 40th birthday, Charles Blaine, founder of a successful San Francisco pharmaceutical company, is found dead along with his wife. Blaine’s brother Chase gets guardianship of his orphaned teenage niece Kenzie and her younger brother Zach. Uncle Chase is a contractor working to restore the Blaine family home in Cape Augusta, Maine, and he brings his new charges there to live with him. Almost immediately, strange things begin happening when the two minors arrive at the ancestral home. 

As first acts of archetypical horror tableaus go, Daniel and Moreci aren’t afraid to revel in staples of the genre. They celebrate the elements that have made for great spooky tales and build upon them well without trying, for now, to reinvent them overmuch. Building dread thoughtfully, interjecting sudden and explosive moments of terror, they center on the precept that to receive, you first must give. 

The philosophy of sowing and reaping is often mistaken for what it isn’t by way of removing its proper context. It’s not meant to pertain only to material possessions, but to the greatest gifts humankind can share. The difficult ones like grace. Mercy. Compassion. Forgiveness. Those things often strayed from in twisted tales of revenge and comeuppance. Stray too far, and characters suffer reapings with scythes and other pointy things buried into fleshy places they weren’t made to go. 

Chase and Charles weren’t close. Opposite-coasts-of-the-country kind of estranged, in fact. Undoubtably there are whispered family secrets as to the reasons, but they are reasons left unrevealed for now. Zach and Kelsie dealing with the death of their parents take up expected positions in the narrative. Kelsie’s seventeen going on forty-five, and ready to exit the nest and be on her own. Zach talks more to the family dog than he does to people. 

The scripters don’t waste any time building suspense; the terrors strike quickly to interrupt what’s otherwise a modern tale of untimely death. Perhaps this is why we feel insanity may not only run in the Blaine clan, but triathlons. 

The scares launch from shadows unexpectedly and ferociously. Were this a movie, popcorn would be airborne more than once. While films like Cabin in the Woods have taught us not to assume standard chiller fare has no hidden agendas, the tailored story of The Plot could mislead us to take it at face value—a horror story with trappings we’ve seen before. Often.  

Daniel and Moreci have both built reputations on such convention merely being a feint, with pensive retooling of what’s expected as the narrative advances. Their first issue isn’t yet showing the aces and eights in its hand. 

Joshua Hixson’s art style gifts the project a deceptive veneer of normalcy. The colors of Jordan Boyd leave even the sunny west coast locales under threat from gathering storm clouds, but Hixson makes the family mansion a viable structure. Reasonably old, sections need gutted and replaced, but it’s no condemned pile. Characters aren’t misanthropic or misshapen. Hixson leaves startling departures for the flurried body shots of preternatural violence. 

Jim Campbell delivers an unassuming lettering style, the typeface of a manual made for kids. He breaks it up with small sound effects more effective by want of any flashy fonts or colors. The creative team is unified in the illusion. The world is normal, uneventful self. Until it’s not.

It’s a sly and foreboding beginning for an appealing horror imprint concept. The first issue showcases a steadfast love for the genre that won’t be rushed, cheapened, or compromised for plot advancement. Rich ingredients simmer in the narrative cauldron, destined to come to a bubbling, toiling boil before story’s end. 

Nightfall / Vault Comics / $3.99

Written by Tim Daniel and Michael Moreci. 

Art by Joshua Hixson.

Colors by Jordan Boyd.

Letters by Jim Campbell.

8.5 out of 10

‘The Plot’ hits stores September 25.

Check out Nathan Gooden & Tim Daniel’s Vault Vintage Variant to ‘The Plot’ #1, courtesy of Vault Comics!

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