Depending on which order you read the book, which side you go for, you’re going to get to the stories contained within these pages in a different order, but whichever one you start with, first you get to meet Desdaemonia Nimue Moreau, the proprietor of the Shock Shop. With deathly pale skin, dark hair, and an old fashioned ringmasters uniform, Desdaemonia cuts an interesting figure, especially when you notice that her right hand is simply bone, the flesh having been removed. Her shop is home to all kinds of weird and wonderful spooky things, with shelves filled with creepy masks, old bones, and eyeballs, whilst the undead wander around out front. Whichever way you enter this issue, she tells you about a spooky comic book that you should pay attention to.
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The first of these stories (that I read) is ‘Something in the Woods, in the Dark’, written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Danny Luckert and Nate Piekos. This story follows a group of friends hiking out into the wilderness together, making their way deep into a remote woodland. Straight away you can tell that something isn’t quite right, and that this isn’t your average fun adventure, when a few members of the group don’t seem to get along.
As the group settles down to camp for the night we get the chance to get to know some of them a little better, and learn that the tension is because two of the group are trying to repair their failing marriage. When one of the group heads out into the woods to take a toilet break, something begins stalking him in the darkness.
I really liked this story, and found that the set-up was really well done. The story spends time letting you get a sense of the group of characters that you’re following in a relatively short number of pages. Whilst I couldn’t tell you all of the characters names, you do start to get an idea of who are the more hotheaded ones, who are the more thoughtful ones, and what each of them thinks about Willa and Clark and their marriage woes. It give us a good grounding for the awful things that are to come as the horror elements start to rear their head at the end of the issue.
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There are hints at what this story might be about, about what might be in the forest, but not enough for you to form a decent opinion of it. It seems to have a connection to one of the members of the group, but then that could be a misdirection. At this stage, it’s simply a solid start to a story that still has a lot to reveal.
The art on this story is my favourite of the two art styles on offer here, with really nice, neat art. Every character looks unique and distinct, which makes it easier to tell everyone apart. Where the art really stands out is in the colours and lighting. The camp setting looks great, with the dark greens and blues of the night covered forest surrounding the bright yellows and oranges of the camp fire. The art adds a lot to the atmosphere of the story, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of it.
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The second story, ‘Familiars’, is also written by Bunn, but with art by Leila Leiz, Bill Crabtree, and Nate Piekos. This story follows a divorced father as he buys and moves into a new house. As he looks around the home some of the panels are coloured all in red, and a faint hissing noise occurs, and it looks like something is watching the man as he inspects his new home. After he moves in he wakes up to find that all of his boxes have been unpacked, the house is all set up, and there’s even a hot cup of coffee waiting for him.
When is kids come to stay with him for the weekend the man is thrilled to show off his magic house to them, as objects fly around the room when he asks, and the house even helps the three of them to bake cookies and play around. But then his kids mention how the house is haunted, something the man hasn’t considered. He tells them that it’s not a haunting, but good spirits like elves helping out. And then we get to see just what is in the house with the three of them.
This is a fairly simple set-up, and has a feel that reminds me of something like a Goosebumps story, where a couple of kids come to stay in the house of their family member and learn that something spooky is going on. Of the two stories on offer here this one feels the most ‘family-friendly’ of the two, and the inclusion of the children has me wondering if perhaps this will be less focused on the overt horror elements, or could perhaps subvert expectations entirely.
The artwork on this story adds to this feel, with a big rougher art that has big, bold lines at times, and a much brighter colour palette to work with. Where the art in the first story was a part of the horror and helped to build atmosphere, here it almost seems to be doing the opposite, and it feels like a very normal, everyday home apart from a handful of panels. I suspect this is part of the plan, that you’re going to be lulled into a false sense of security before the more overt horror elements come into play in the next issue.
The first issue of Shock Shop features two very different, but entertaining first parts of two distinct stories. They both have good set-up, and some interesting ideas in them. Here’s hoping that issue two continues to be as entertaining, and the we perhaps get some more of the horror elements that are fairly light here.
Shock Shop #1 is out now from Dark Horse.