Pre-comics code, there were a lot of different genres of comics on the shelves, everything from westerns to romance to detective stories, and yes, especially horror books. After the code was brought into being, and after many of those genres migrated to other media like television, superhero books were pretty much the only thing left on the shelf. Now that the code is gone, and more and more independent publishers are fighting for an ever shrinking amount of shelf space, it’s no surprise that some of these older genres are finding their way back onto the racks, especially since so many indie publishers know how challenging it would be to compete with the Big Two when it comes to the world of superheroes. In the last few years alone I have seen westerns like Undone by Blood and That Texas Blood, Detective stories like The Good Asian, and even some good old fashioned Romance comics have popped up here and there.
And horror? Yes, there is plenty of horror.
Now, I don’t hate horror stories, and there are a lot of comics that could be classified as horror books that I consider to be among my favourites, but for the most part works of horror are just not my cup of tea. Far too often, at least in my personal opinion, horror comics have a tendency to rely very heavily on disturbing imagery, and not on actually creating believable worlds or interesting characters. Body horror and gore will never be something I seek out, although I get that it is a staple of the genre today.
That being said, I do love me some psychological horror. Books like The Department of Truth, Black Stars Above, The Nice House on the Lake, and other similar titles have their elements of gore, but it’s the intense psychological horror elements that I find so appealing about those titles. (It’s probably no surprise that one of my favorite novels is Frankenstein, a fantastic work of psychological torment that has all too often been remade as little more than a scary monster story). Anyone can draw something gross and violent, but not everyone can make me actually care about the characters that violence is happening to.
Which takes us to today’s book, Rain, from Image Comic’s newest imprint SYZYGY, launched by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood. Rain is based on a novella by Joe Hill, who has spent a lot of time in recent years making a solid mark on the horror comic genre. It’s a book that certainly has its moments of violence and gore, but it works hard to try to make you actually care about the characters that the violence is happening to.
Does it succeed? Is it worth checking out? Well let’s dive in together friends and see just what this new imprint has to offer.
Here’s the blurb:
THE FIRST IN CHRIS RYALL & ASHLEY WOOD’S NEW SYZYGY PUBLISHING IMPRINT LINE OF TITLES AT IMAGE COMICS!
On a seemingly normal August day in Boulder, Colorado, the skies are clear, and Honeysuckle Speck couldn’t be happier. She’s finally moving in with her girlfriend Yolanda. But their world is literally torn apart when dark clouds roll in and release a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. RAIN makes vivid this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads across the country and around the world, threatening everything young lovers Honeysuckle and Yolanda hold dear.
So begins a gripping 5-issue presentation of New York Times bestselling author JOE HILL’s acclaimed novella, adapted by rising stars DAVID M. BOOHER (Canto), ZOE THOROGOOD (The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott), and CHRIS O’HALLORAN (Ha-Ha).
Right off the bat, I am not super familiar with Joe Hill’s comics. I know his Hill House line of books has been very popular and a number of my friends speak very highly of his work, but I have not personally checked many of them out. I did a little digging into the origins of this comic, and read a few, very brief synopsis of the original work this comic is based on, but they didn’t do much to enlighten me on the details of the story, so I sadly cannot speak too much about how faithful of an adaptation Rain actually is.
That being said, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not having read the original. Rain #1 is paced well, with well developed characters, and stakes I could recognize. It also does a decent job of world building, though, as it is kind of the preamble to what is going to follow, I did feel like this story took a bit too long to get the the point. It wasn’t boring or any such thing, but when there is a lot of foreshadowing that something terrible is going to happen, it’s hard to fight the impulse to just skip ahead to see what that is going to actually look like.
And honestly, that’s a mark in Rain‘s favour. Like I said, I like psychological horror more than gore, and it’s a testament to this creative team that I found myself repeatedly fighting the urge to skip ahead to the ending of Rain just to see who lived and who died. Even with the heavy foreshadowing, I still didn’t want to believe that that ending was coming, and that speaks volumes to how well the characters are crafted.
I have read a lot of books where characters die and it means nothing to me because of how poorly written the books were. Rain does not have this problem.
Overall, Rain is a well-written and well-paced book, with some beautiful, stylistic art, and characters that are both believable and interesting. As the start of a new imprint I am very interested in seeing where it goes, and believe that there is some really interesting potential here for growth.
So if you love Joe Hill’s other work, or are ready for a new take on survival horror, Rain just might be the book for you! Check it out and let me know what you think below.
Until next time, stay safe!