It’s been pointed out that there are a lot of horror comics out on the market right now, and Image certainly has their share. When Goners hit the stands last week, the refrain of “there are so many horror comics” was heard throughout the Internet. True, competing in a somewhat crowded field that includes newer titles like Wytches and long-running series like The Walking Dead can make it difficult to stand out.
However, saying that there isn’t room for another horror comic is akin to suggesting that there isn’t room for yet another comic featuring a certain Dark Knight Detective, and yet they seem to be adding roughly one new ongoing title every week to a slate that already includes half a dozen titles with the character. The key is to do something different; by taking a fresh approach, the creative team allows the reader to explore a familiar genre from a different perspective. It enables us to look past the customary and expected trappings of the genre and dive into the core of the story.
Semahn succeeds well in the first outing of this title by starting small and focusing on something that’s truly personal and matters to everyone: family. Using that focus as the core of the story, he and co-creator/artist Corona then expanded that kernel of an idea into an intriguing world where the supernatural and the mythic are real, and there’s one family whose destiny is to protect us from things more powerful and dangerous than we are. They then take the idea a step further, and here’s where their creativity really shines through. They capitalize on one of the fundamental elements of the old “family destined to fight monsters and pass their secrets down from one generation to the other” trope by focusing on the children of the current generation. And these are children of the modern age who have grown up, along with the rest of the world, watching the exploits of their parents defeating unearthly horrors on the evening news. The social commentary on our media-dependent culture is not lost as we experience the emotions of the children watching TV as their parents provide “entertainment” to the masses in the form of their job as 21st century ghostbusters.
Corona supports the family focus by crafting vaguely manga-esque, cartoon-like characters with exaggerated features that on one level have a playful, childlike quality to them. On another level, however, the images then become even more disturbing when portraying creepy undead with glowing red eyes or monstrous beasts ripping apart human victims. The children of the family have a classic cartoon cuteness to them that makes the supernatural horror elements of the story stand out even more. Cassata continues this dichotomy by switching back and forth between bright multi-colored scenes, contrasted with near-monochromatic, dark grey shadowy scenes punctuated by bright red only for eyes, blood, gore, and monster word balloons.
There’s a lot to like in this first issue – enough world-building to keep readers interested, but not so much that everything is explained. There’s still a lot unknown about the horror-hunting family, as well as the supernatural creatures in general. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill zombies types, and the appearance of a certain monster at the end seems to indicate that we may be dealing with a mythology that’s more close-to-home (for those of us who live in the States). That’s a refreshing change from the standard pseudo-European folklore that so many stories rely on.
It’s also fun to put the focus of the story on the two kids, but not try to make it overly “edgy” just for the sake of being cool. The kids are not modern, jaded kids who drink, curse, and eviscerate each other in social media. Instead, the story has a slightly more innocent 1980s vibe to it, which is not surprising considering that the 1985 movie The Goonies was one of the influences of Goners. There are even some parallels to the 1970s classic Escape to Witch Mountain. However, make no mistake – this is not a kids’ comic by any means. Rather, it is a horror comic with a focus on family, mystery, and mythology, instead of on blood-and-guts or dissecting the true nature of humanity living in a post-zombie apocalypse. And for that reason, combined with the unique artistic style, it has created a niche among all the other horror books on the stands.