French publisher Humanoids is one of those companies that will rarely disappoint. One of their latest offerings, Pandemonium is another story that can be added to the list of greats produced by Humanoids. Written by Christophe Bec and illustrated by Stefano Raffaele, Pandemonium is based on a true story that lies heavily in the horror and crime drama genres. Blending these two genres can be difficult, but Pandemonium uses these two concepts to play off each other to create one masterpiece.
Writer: Christophe Bec
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Colors: Marie-Paule Alluard (Volume 1) and Bruno Padelle (Volumes 1 & 2)
pan·de·mo·ni·um [pan-duh-moh-nee-uhm] noun:
1. wild uproar or unrestrained disorder; tumult or chaos.
2. a place or scene of riotous uproar or utter chaos.
3. (often initial capital letter) the abode of all the demons.
Pandemonium. What a fitting title for a story such as this one. Look at a couple of the ways above to define the word “pandemonium.” The typical use of the word would be to describe a scene or place where chaos has erupted. A place where there are no laws to keep any sort of peace, except by those that fuel the chaos. People behaving in cruel, unusual, and chaotic ways. Unrestrained disorder. The laws and morality of mankind are thrown out the window for more barbaric passions and baser desires. There is also a place called Pandemonium. It is usually a place where demons dwell. Sometimes a level of hell, and sometimes its own realm entirely. And then there is the last description for pandemonium. Hell.
Pandemonium is based on a true story. It centers on the mystery and legends behind Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Waverly Hills when established was a center devoted to treating tuberculosis. During the 1930s there was a large outbreak in the US, and Waverly Hills was praised as one of the top centers in the country to treat it. This prestige lasted for many years at Waverly, located in Louisville, Kentucky. The problem is, between the lawlessness of the era and the attention to other global matters, Waverly Hills’ more gruesome acts flew under the radar. Doris and Cora Greathouse, the mother and daughter that Pandemonium centers around, are both dealing with tuberculosis. Doris, Cora’s mother, dealt with and survived TB (tuberculosis) when she was eleven. Now Cora, at the tender age of seven, is being admitted to Waverly to deal with her own case. A strange sense of foreboding and odd encounters with the staff await the Greathouses as they enter the Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
The creepy feeling and sense of anxiousness throughout Pandemonium is due in large part to artist Stefano Raffaele. He expertly chooses the right angles and shows just the right scenes to create an almost movie-like experience. A reader can almost imagine what the next scene would look like, but Raffaele chooses the not so easy angles which work out much better than one would expect. This story is driven purely by the characters and a lot of the emotion comes from the looks on characters’ faces. Raffaele does a fantastic job with each character, providing the right visuals to go along with Christophe Bec’s dialog. There were even some great panoramic views in which the reader gets to see the Sanatorium, and get that sense of “Oh boy, I do not want to go in there.” While there are two different colorists throughout this story, both got the job done. Marie-Paule Alluard captures the tone of the story a little better, but Bruno Padelle’s sharper colors are just as effective.
There have been a lot of instances where a writer would take a true story and try to distribute a re-telling through various media devices. A lot of the time the true essence and fear of these supernatural encounters are lost between the original and the final product. In the case of Pandemonium, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Writer Cristophe Bec takes into account the long history of Waverly Hills, and weaves a very original, engaging, and haunting story. The crime aspect of Waverly Hills is enough to drive a story of its own, but combined with the supernatural accounts just puts this story over the top. It’s hard to imagine that the experiences had at Waverly were true, but Bec makes it a believable and haunting tale. He handles the relationship between Cora and her mother Doris well, expressing the love between the two. While the story mainly centers around Cora and Doris, there were many other characters in the tale. These characters provided the perfect contrast to innocent Cora and protective Doris. Some were just pure evil, and some bordered the line, but all of the characters fit into the story well.
The mother-daughter tandem worked really well for this story. Kids are always a great device to use in a horror story, because they provide those candid and honest moments that lend to realizing the truth behind what is going on. The mother, on the other hand, always has to keep the air of reality around, but always trusting their child in the end. We’ve seen this dynamic used in great horror stories like The Exorcist, and even the more recent Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The mothers in these stories, while they become unhinged at some points, have to be strong in the end to provide for and protect their child. Some of us can relate to this, having grown up with a mother figure. You look to your mother for comfort and safety, and this is where a horror story works. You have those places in a story where you feel, but also those places where you’re in absolute fear when your mother isn’t around. Pandemonium provides this anxious fear and safety with two very strong female leads in Doris and Cora.
It’s hard to really find any complaint with Pandemonium. Stefano Raffaele was able to choose just the right shots for nearly every panel. Raffaele showed the right amount of emotion in every facial expression, adding a ton of excitement to the story. Both colorists handled their duties with care, and made it easy to adjust to the two different styles. Christophe Bec took an already scary tale, and turned it into something much more gruesome. Featuring real crime with the right amount of supernatural drama added on top, Pandemonium is a must read for horror fans.