The second issue of the new Dark Horse horror series, Shock Shop, has arrived, and after a first issue that spent its time setting up things for both of the stories within its pages, we get to the real meat of things as the horror and gore kick it up a notch.
In the first issue of ‘Something in the Woods, in the Dark’ we spent some time getting to know a group of friends hiking out into the woods, and learned that it was part of a plan to try and help a struggling couple with their relationship after one of them was caught having an affair. The tension seemed to be echoing around the group, and even causing issues amongst the others. When one of them wanders off into the trees to go toilet he sees what looks like one of the group running around, naked. Upon investigating, a horrific creature takes hold of him.
This issue we don’t have to wait long to find out what the monster did to its victim, as Tom’s body is the very first thing we see. Desiccated, looking like a mummy left out in the woods for years, his body baffles his friends as they know that nothing should be able to do that to a person. After some arguments as to what should be done, the group decides that the best thing that they can do is get the hell out of there, going for help as soon as they can.
After spending the day trying to hike their way out of the woods, night falls and the group are still in danger. When one of them sees Tom watching from the trees, she runs off to find him, but immediately vanishes. Going after her, part of the group discovers something horrific hunting them in the dark.
‘Something in the Woods, in the Dark’ is a very creepy story, and if you’re not a fan of gore and body horror it’s one that’s very quickly going to get under your skin. The horrors that were only hinted at in the final moments of the first issue are here, in force, and Bunn seems to have ramped things up a fair bit. It still feels like we’re in the early stages of the story, however, as the characters are only now learning that they’re in danger, and we don’t know what’s going on.
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Figuring out what this creature/entity/thing is will be one of the more interesting parts of this story, and I can’t help but feel that Bunn is giving out small hints already, such as one of the characters vomiting blood for no apparent reason. Whatever it is, I think it’s going to be something interesting.
The art on this story is by Danny Luckert and is my favourite on the book so far. The level of detail that Luckert brings to the page is great, and there’s so much to look at. Luckert fills each panel with objects to bring the setting to life, from fallen leaves cluttering the forest floor, to dozens of trees looming over, further emphasising the oppressive nature of the location. But the best parts are those with the creature, when Luckert gets to cut loose and give us some visceral body horror. It’s gross and beautiful at the same time, and whilst you want to look away you find yourself staring at the detail on display.
The other story, ‘Familiars’ takes what was a quite nice story about a father showing his kids a good time and begins to take it in a sinister direction. Last issue we met Trevor, a single father who’d just moved into his new home. Upon arrival things were unpacked in the house overnight. As more things begun to happen, but they all seemed to be nice, so he came to the conclusion that his house has friendly ghosts. When his kids come to visit for the weekend they get in on the fun, and have a great time.
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This issue we pick up with the weekend coming to an end, and the kids going back to their mother and her new boyfriend. The kids accidentally let slip about the ghostly goings on, and it causes some tension amongst the adults. Trevor is angry about the situation, especially towards his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Kyle, who seems to hate him. When the kids realise that they left their bear at their dad’s, Kyle sets off to go get it, grumbling all the way about how much he dislikes the entire thing. Unbeknown to him, however, something from Trevor’s house is in the car with him and doesn’t like him.
I have to be honest, I was kind of expecting this story to go a particular direction and am pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. I thought that this was going to turn into a situation where the ‘good’ ghosts ended up going bad, and whilst that might still happen, it at least doesn’t seem like Trevor and his kids are going to be the target. I like what this issue does with the story, and there are hints of more interesting stuff to come soon; I expect that this might be the story out of the two that has the most surprises in store for the readers.
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Leila Leiz and Bill Crabtree have really nice art for this story, and I like how simple it is. There are big, bold lines that give the story a more stripped-down approach than the other, with the important details being on the characters. We don’t need to fill the backgrounds with stuff here, as the art is centred on the story. The art also has a style that could easily fit into a book designed for a younger reader, and this helps to enhance the story that’s focused on this father and his kids. It’s able to capture the warmth and wonder that the kids experience, whilst also switching into more horrific scenes in a style that works wonderfully for both.
This is a really great second issue; one that is building on what came before in both stories, and seems set to deliver some new and interesting tales. Whatever comes next, I think it’s fair to say that it’s going to be entertaining.
Shock Shop #2 is out now from Dark Horse.