By Mickey Rivera. A Walk Through Hell #1 is less like a walk and more like an unstoppable, slow moving train to which readers are strapped down, watching as the world around them grows darker and bloodier the farther along they go. Take for example, the first few pages. As early as page two an infant literally gets shot in the face in their mother’s arms, but the text narration assures us that’s “actually the least awful thing to happen” in this story.
Comic book veteran and patently deranged wordsmith Garth Ennis, who co-created A Walk Through Hell with artist Goran Sudžuka, goes on to specifically name the characters who are due to experience an unknown and thoroughly new form of suffering during the course of the story, people we meet soon enough. An air of locked-in fate permeates this book, along with a coterie of bad omens and deadly portents. Bad dreams. Suicide. Disappearances.
This story is all about slow-rolling suspense that occasionally breaks open into unexplained violence and despair. Ennis and Sudžuka will lull you into a sense of security with snappy dialogue and banal commentary about politics and social media, but it’s all there to distract you from the monster in the shadows.
Our protagonists are a couple of FBI agents going about their usual investigations. Agent MacGregor is a fresh faced, sharp kid who’s obsessed with the internet news cycle. The murder of an infant and mother has sent the internet into a fit. When we first meet McGregor he’s submerged face-first in his phone, taking in a Twitter flame war about gun violence. His partner, Agent Shaw (readers are not on a first name basis with anyone), suffers from nightmares likely tied to a traumatic work experience that isn’t explored in this issue. She’s the moody realist to McGregor’s theoretical political scientist shtick. We get the sense that both take pride in their work.
Ennis and Sudžuka have created a world that looks and feels just like ours, but which is internally wired to slowly unnerve. Like Lovecraft, they’re aiming to get under your skin by offering you banality spiked with terror. That’s a tried and true method, executed to perfection as McGregor and Shaw go to investigate two fellow agents who entered a dark warehouse and never came back out. There’s not a remarkable amount of blood or gore in this comic; instead its emotional reach is purely psychological, driven by the action, the implications, and the shadow-heavy art by Sudžuka and colorist Ive Svorcina. It’s a tactic that works surprisingly well.
A Walk Through Hell #1 takes its time, but fills the perimeter with simmering uneasiness. Wanting us to feel at home, Ennis gets his characters to chat and squabble about casual human nonsense like politics and social media, all the while injecting occasional reminders that anyone you grow to love in this world will likely be meeting some as yet unknown terrible demise. Fans of slow-burning horror will want to pick this up immediately. As the story tortuously spreads its tendrils out and stretches, reader are likely in for quite a sight.
Co-created and written by Garth Ennis.
Co-created and drawn by Goran Sudžuka.
Colors by Ive Svorcina.
Letters by Rob Steen.
8 out of 10