Shock Shop #3 – Comic Review

The third issue of the Dark Horse horror comic flip-book, Shock Shop, has arrived, and offers up some intriguing insight into both stories on offer. So far both stories have spent some time laying a careful foundation, building up to the big horror reveals, but now writer Cullen Bunn seems to be giving us some clues as to what’s really going on here, and it makes this a very interesting entry in the series.

‘Something In The Woods In The Dark’ picks up in the middle of the action where the previous issue left off, with one of the group being attacked by a huge, tentacled blob-like creature. With one of the group being thrown around, smashed into trees, in the grips of the monster, the others have no choice but to run. Meeting up with the rest of the group there’s a moment of confrontation and revelation as they realise that the creatures in the woods can imitate them. Understanding that there is something in the woods that want to kill them, and can make itself look like them, they decide to stick together, and get the hell out of there.

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Unfortunately, this is a horror story, and nothing is ever that simple. More members of the group fall victim to the creatures, as the monsters that hunt them prove that they’re capable of forming plans and using deception in order to get close to their prey. However, Willa puts forward an interesting suggestion; that they brought the creatures with them. When they see the two monsters – two very different monsters – she says, “They’re us”. Now, we know that she and her husband are going through a rough relationship, and that there’s been betrayal and hard feelings between them, so is Bunn letting us know with this line that the monsters are some kind of manifestation of their inner turmoil? Maybe, I can see it being possible, and it would certainly be an interesting move.

This issue gives us the best look at the two monsters, and whilst one of them looks like some kind of growing mass of flesh, like a tumour with tentacles, the other is a thing of horrific beauty. The shape-changing monster seems to unfold, expand, and split. It’s made up of dozens of different body-parts and pieces that come together in one horrific ensemble. It’s a stunning design, and Danny Luckert’s art, which is great throughout, is absolutely stunning when bringing this monster to life. You want to avoid looking at it, and want to stare at it and examine it in close detail at the same time. It’s a wonderful creation, and the visual highlight of the book.

The second story, ‘Familars’, has taken a slight time-jump since the last issue, where Kyle was killed in a car crash thanks to the monsters living in Trevor’s house. We rejoin Trevor as he attends Kyle’s funeral, speaking with his ex, making sure that she’s doing okay and that the kids are holding up alright. Whilst Trevor is trying to be a decent guy in this moment, Nancy’s parents, particularly her father, just act like complete jerks to him, giving him shit because of his and Nancy’s marriage having failed.

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Unfortunately for them, Trevor’s little friends were there, and watching everything, and after following Nancy’s parents home, they deal with them the same way that they did with Kyle. This leads to a situation where Trevor is being looked at by the police as a possible suspect, and Trevor comes to the realisation that the monsters living in his house have been targeting people that he’s been in fights with. But now that he’s had an argument with Nancy, and the monsters have vanished once again, he faces an important decision about what to do.

‘Familiars’ already felt like the less complex of the two stories, the one with the least amount of mystery to it, as the title seems to give away what the story is about. The creatures living in Trevor’s house clearly want to help him, they’ve been doing that since the first time they made their presence known, but because they’re monsters they can only really do so in one way; but doing awful things. But this issue wasn’t about the reader figuring that out, it was about Trevor figuring that out. And now that he realises what’s going on the big question becomes what’s he going to do about it?

The obvious response is that Trevor will somehow use his connection with the creatures to stop them from killing Nancy. I can see the series going that route, and maybe having Trevor die at their hands instead, but there’s another option that might be fairly interesting: that Trevor could let them kill his ex-wife. We know that he loves his children, and that he and Nancy have had issues in the past, so is it impossible that he might allow the monsters to kill Nancy, making him his kids sole parent? The final part of this story could be the most interesting, as we’ve now got to wait to find out how decent a man Trevor is, and what kind of decision he’ll make.

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The artwork on ‘Familiars’, by Leila Leiz and Bill Crabtree, is okay, but there are times that the characters feel a little off and a bit messy, with proportions that don’t quite feel right. This was perhaps most pronounced in the funeral scene, when Trevor seemed to change face shape more than once, looking like completely different characters on different panels. The monsters, however, look great, and are the best part of that story. Sadly, whenever they’re not on the page and we’re following the humans (which is 95% of the time) the art is a bit rougher to enjoy.

Shock Shop continues to be an entertaining and engaging series with some interesting stories and characters, and with only a single issue left it’ll be interesting to see how both stories end, and if there’s a chance that anyone involved will manage to get a happy ending.

Shock Shop #3 is out now from Dark Horse.

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