Pullbox Review: Cullen Bunn Offers Up Horror for the Senses in Basilisk

Written By: Cullen Bunn

Illustrated By: Jonas Scharf

Colored By: Alex Guimaraes

Letterered By: Ed Dukeshire

Covers By: Jonas Scharf, Christian Ward, Rafael Albuquerque

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Available: June 2

Price: $3.99

Early October two years ago, the small town of Kingsley, somewhere in the middle of America. Five strangers in green scrubs wander into town, confused. Befuddled.

An elderly townie, perhaps the village’s spokesman, notices their plight and offers a kindness. “You folks need any help? You look like you’re in a spot of trouble.” One among the group, an innocent-seeming young woman, looks at him, her eyes an alien red.

Moments later, the Chimera unleashed, the town is a shambles, its inhabitants—all of them—dead. Kingsley was the first.

But far from the last.

Hannah wasn’t there, then. Not where she was supposed to be. Not where she could have helped…or died with the rest of them, thereby escaping the misery her life, absent everything and everyone she’d known and loved, has been since.

Regan was there, was one of them. A newborn at the time, a neonate. Newly created? Who knows. Wracked with guilt over the pain she’s caused, she’s not among them now, and hasn’t been…but is still a part of them, as they are a part of her. The Chimera’s hive mind will only allow her to escape so far. And her eyes retain their fell power. So much so, she must hide them behind a mask, and operate in blindness. A basilisk whose baleful gaze waits only to be unleashed.

Hannah has been hunting her prey for two years now—and has finally found her quarry. She is prepared to snare and subdue her nightmare, and exact her revenge…but is she ready for all of them? Is anyone?

Can anyone stope the Chimera?

Out from Boom! Studios this week is what looks to be another classic in horror and suspense from Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Sixth Gun) and his creative mate from Bone Parish, Jonas Scharf (Avengers of the Wastelands, Namor: King in Black). A hive-minded group of sensory-based killers have been terrorizing small-town America, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Can one of their victims, and a former member, stop them? Can anyone?

Anyone familiar with Bunn’s horror writing—Cold Days, Harrow County, Bone Parrish—know he’s a master of setting tone and establishing haunting mythologies…and Basilisk is no different. Here, he lets partner Jonas Scharf perform the yeoman’s work, trusting in his artist (as the best graphic writers do) and his readers to do much of his work for him in setting tone and background. We’re not overburdened with detail and exposition, allowing the natural dialogue of the characters and Hannah’s (the book’s heroine) thoughts to offer us what history we need. What dialogue there is is direct and immediate…and yet despite all that, I left issue one with a fairly strong understanding of the horror past and an idea of that yet to come, as well as a bucket of curiosity about how it’s all going to pan out.

There’s a reason Bunn trusts Scharf, by the way. It’s because he’s a DAMNED good artist. Varying in style between a grainy, almost retro themed approach to the flashbacked introduction to a smoother, shadow-laden and realistic look in the present action, every line and curve is purposeful, every panel flowing beautifully into the next. Scharf’s facial expressions are top-notch, imbuing even non-speaking characters with personality and life with a frown here, a subtle sneer there. Highly detailed without feeling busy, this is work I’d love to track down some of the original pages for and hang on my wall.

And where Bunn trusts Scharf to express his words and structure in line, Scharf in turn trusts Guimaraes (Dune: House Atreides) to amplify his lines in color, and wow, did he come out golden in that deal. Guimaraes’ colors are spectacular, from the hazy and weirdly-lit flashbacks, to the muted and shadowed present, to the explosive and revealing confrontation with The Faithful. A spectacular pairing that has me chomping at the bit for more between these two creators.

As usual, Ed Dukeshire delivers the goods with the lettering…though he had to wait a bit to get going on this one (spoiler alert: there’s no text until the bottom of page 2, and it’s mighty sparse for the first half of the book). Dialogue and thought boxes flow through the art, amplifying rather than disrupting the book’s flow and providing Bunn’s words every bit the gravitas they deserve. Sound effect play is fairly minimal and regresses to the background by design, the emphasis being on the Basilisk and her actions, but is there where it needs to be.

All in all, Basilisk, Chapter One: Down From the Mountains is a gorgeous looking bit of terror, and Bunn is once again in his element. A little bit Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep and a little bit Medusa out of Greek Mythology, this is definitely a book I’ll be tracking in the coming months…the only issue for me looks to be deciding on which of the seriously cool covers Boom! is releasing this one in!

Basilisk, Chapter One will be available at your local comic book store as well as Amazon and Comixology on June 2, for the standard book price of $3.99. Get thee hence, folks, and enjoy!

13/13

Review by Andy Patch
Contributing Editor

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