In Review: A Walk Through Hell #1

The dread builds with every page and leaves the reader needing the next chapter immediately to resume breathing.

The covers: Andy Clarke with Jose Villarrubia created the A cover. This is a distant aerial view of a warehouse district that shows the doors open to one of the buildings and three police cars and a SWAT van outside. Two figures are about to walk through the doors as seven others watch them, safely behind their squad cars. The lights of the squad cars brighten the cool blues of this illustration. This is a solid tease of what’s to come in this issue, leaving the reader wondering what lies within that ebony entrance. There’s a B cover I discovered online that has the cover completely in black, with the title and credits in white. This super close-up of the open door is stark, as it should be, and can become a sketch cover if an artist uses a white pen. I picked up copy of the book from a comic book convention that AfterShock was attending and my copy features the exact same art as the A cover, but is in black and white, with the title and upper credits in crimson. Searching online I came across an additional cover, a Variant by Ben Templesmith (limited to 200 copies). This features bust shots of both agents within the warehouse. They are looking upon something that casts an orange glow upon them. Bullet casings are flying before them. As with the other covers, this teases something occurring, but doesn’t explicitly show it to the reader. Nice. There’s even been a 2nd Print cover which features shattering glass exploding forward, with the title spelled out in unbroken glass. Neat photo realistic cover. Overall grades: A A, B A-, Black and White Variant A, Templesmith Variant A, and 2nd Print A

The story: In the recent past, the Hunzikker family makes their way through a mall bustling with foot traffic that’s due to the holiday season. They’re talking about setting each other’s surviving parent with the other. Their discussion is silenced when a man appears before them with a gun and shoots Mrs. Hunzikker in the chest, where she is carrying her daughter. Mr. Hunzikker is in a state of shock. He focuses only on his wife and child as the gunman continues to blast away at unfortunate shoppers behind him. The killer takes his own life, but Mr. Hunzikker has to live with this pain for the rest of his. This opening three page sequence is a nightmare that Agent Shaw is reliving. As she writhes in bed at this horror that was her last case, her partner Agent McGregor leaves his house to pick her up, while reading texts on the shooting. Writer Garth Ennis starts this series off by establishing the two leads, one stuck in the pain of the past with the other idealistic. The pair meet with another pair of agents working on a case, they separate, and then a call comes in that the agents they met for lunch have disappeared at a Long Beach warehouse. They go there to see what’s going on. It’s not revealed, but a group of men who did enter the building and get out are scarred by what they’ve seen. So much so they do something drastic. There’s an incredible sense of dread that builds with each page. By the time the story moves to warehouse this tale has become particularly unnerving. All I know is I have to see what’s in that warehouse and I’m afraid that if I saw what’s in there I might do something drastic as well. A definite creeper. Overall grade: A

The art: Goran Sudzuka is the book’s artist and he grounds this book in reality, and that’s what makes this book visually terrifying. The opening page grounds the book in the real world by showing the family walking in a crowded mall during Christmas. This is a scene that everyone has witnessed or partaken in. The full-paged splash on Page 2 is a jaw-dropper because it’s absolutely unexpected in this environment. The look on the parents’ faces is one of being dumbfounded, not shock, because this action just doesn’t happen to people like them or in this location. I like that the shell from the bullet has flown high enough to be between both characters so that the reader can clearly see what’s happened. The page that follows pulls back from Mr. Hunzikker to show that he’s in shock at what’s been done to his wife and child. The first time I read this book I focused wholly on him, but for the second read I looked in the background and it’s chaos as the gunman fells other shoppers before finally putting the gun to his head. Pages 4 – 5 contrast Shaw and McGregor in the morning, with him constantly on his phone — even while driving! — and her violent moving about in bed. At the warehouse the black void of the unlit interiors is absolutely menacing: it’s like a black hole. Sudzuka’s art is a key component on these final nine pages because the characters’ faces are giving the reader information that the story is not. Some individuals are lying about information, others are scared to death, while some are resolute. The characters are amazing on Pages 16 – 18, making the dialogue incredibly uncomfortable. That first panel on 18 is a shocker. The actions of one character, as well as his final visage, on the penultimate page only increase the terror. This story is a tense read because of Sudzuka’s illustrations. Overall grade: A

The colors: Adding to the tone of the artwork are the colors by Ive Svorcina. The opening blandness of the mall is wonderful because of how the setting is given gray colors. This allows the characters to stand out, but they aren’t wearing bright. They’re absolutely normal. When the art pulls in close to them, the characters get some good shades on their skin and clothes. Everything about this page is absolutely normal. The second page has the background go a charcoal, while the Hunzikkers are colored an off yellow to highlight the gun blast. This coloring remains changed on Page 3 as the husband looks down at his wife and daughter. The only other color that lights the panel are the white gunshots from the killer. The texts that McGregor reads are given a blue border that the reader can associate with electronics, which fits the communications. Shaw’s unsound sleep has her colored in grays, which are similar to Page 3, but represent the closed window to the California sunshine. This is an excellent way the colors pull the two events together. When the story goes to the warehouse, the characters are lit by the lights from the squad cars outside the building. This creates some really good shadows on the characters, making everyone seem as if they are hiding something. Overall grade: A

The letters: Rob Steen creates this issue’s narration, dialogue, computer texts, yells, and the final word that states this story is to be continued. The dialogue is easy to read and never steps on any key elements of the visuals. I appreciate that the narration is in a different font from the dialogue, as it is a different form of communication. The texts that appear on McGregor’s phone look as thought they could have been taken from any phone. Overall grade: A

The final line: The dread builds with every page and leaves the reader needing the next chapter immediately to resume breathing. The visuals firmly ground this tale in reality, making the events disturbing. I don’t know where this is headed and I’m anxious for more, but nervous as to what I’ll witness. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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