by Jay Stephens
Black Eye Books
Review by BK Munn
Dwellings is the new horror anthology comic book series from Jay Stephens; the cartoonist’s first solo comic since the end of his Land of Nod series in 1998. He’s done a ton of comics since then, of course, not to mention creating and producing Emmy-winning animated tv shows, but it’s nice to see him once again doing something in the classic old school comics format he cut his teeth on back in the day. The new book has been crowdfunded through a very popular Kickstarter campaign by the revived Black Eye Books, the original publisher of Stephens’ Nod and Atomic City Tales series, picking up where the publisher left off producing well-designed indy Canadian comics a couple decades ago. Part of the appeal of this new project is the high-concept premise, a sort of mash-up of the Harvey-Comics/Richie-Rich/Casper-the-Ghost house style with a decidedly “for adults” horror theme, an ideal combination of two of this great artist’s core fixations.
“They Know” finds Stephens at the height of his bravura storytelling powers, dumping us headlong into a gruesome mystery-terror tale about a young man who randomly runs into a ghost from his past and has to make a life-or-death choice. What follows is equal parts police procedural and creeping psychological fearfest, with heavy Hitchcockian overtones as our protagonist becomes preternaturally involved with the titular “They,” an eerily omnipresent flock of crows. The whole thing is economically told in 30-odd pages, a classic “done-in-one” short story, with several stand-out sequences and some excellent memorably macabre panels and images. Stephens has become a master colourist of his own comics and the whole package has a great retro-modern look to it, with lots of the sort of distressed nostalgic touches the artist has been incorporating into his work for the last few years. I quite enjoyed this exquisite little comic (every detail is perfect) and I’m looking forward to the next issue’s entirely new nightmarishly graphic narrative!