At the end of a long hot summer, three high school friends, on the cusp of college, venture into the barred tunnel leading to their old high school. Not only will old horrors be uncovered, but the disturbing backstory of each of these friends will come to the fore, in Bedtime Games #1.
Writer: Nick Keller
Artist: Conor Nolan
Letterer: John J. Hill
Colorist: Kelly Fizpatrick
Editor: Katii O’Brien
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: June 27, 2018
Previously in Bedtime Games #1: Avery and her friends Jamie and Owen celebrate the end of the summer by breaking into the tunnel leading to their high school. These firm friends will uncover something considerably darker than they thought, and along the way, the reader will discover things about our heroes that are just as disturbing.
IT took the cinema by storm last year. While your reviewer thought the reaction to it was overblown, he did appreciate the effort that went into creating a coherent storyline out of such a truncated adaptation. Certainly Bedtime Games #1 shares some of ITs main features – appealing teenagers afflicted with private grief and angst, searching for their place in an adult’s world by doing the stupid thing and venturing into the tunnels beneath their fair town.
Writer and creator Nick Keller runs parallel storylines in this first issue, using the present day to set up the main story, and flashing back to the recent past for Avery and Owen. One suspect that Jamie’s backstory will feature in a future issue. Like the very best horror stories, Bedtime Games #1 doesn’t just focus on the supernatural horror the trio accidentally unleash, but builds character and spices the horror with the more mundane challenges that life throws up.
FACING HER DEMONS
And while he doesn’t shy away from the grief, Keller certainly depicts his characters as being strong, particularly Avery. Her mother dies in front of her, and she is forced to move in with her alcoholic aunt who spends most of her time insulting her dead sister and taking shots at Avery. It’s pleasing to see a strong female character of color feature in the lead role here, and one who fronts up every time, despite the burdens of grief.
Owen’s story is just as sad, with a brother afflicted with a terrible disease that is spectacularly depicted on page 15. One gets the sense that Conor Nolan very much enjoyed illustrating that scene.
Speaking of Conor Nolan, his artwork for Bedtime Games #1 feels organic in a slightly cartoonish way. That said, he doesn’t shy away from the gore, as shown when he depicts the fate of Avery’s mom. There’s an effective sequence in the layout across pages 7-8, when Jamie throws an empty beer bottle into the nearby pond, and we see it drift down into the water, coming to rest on the skeletal remains of a corpse. And he way he subtly presents the private grief of Owen’s dad, stricken by the looming fate of his younger son, is touching and affecting.
The coloring by Kelly Fitzpatrick is most effective during Avery’s flashback sequence. Rusty browns predominate, reflecting her mother’s bloody end, and perhaps demonstrating the distance Avery is trying to put between herself and the tragic events.
As someone who writes horror fiction himself, I can well appreciate the effort Keller has put into Bedtime Games #1. Balancing setting up the characters and situation with the reader’s understandable impatience to get to the scary stuff is hard. Lean too much on the scares to early, and you risk minimizing the stakes by presenting one-dimensional characters. Build up your characters for too long, and you may lose the reader before the big thrill at the end. Happily, Keller manages that balancing act well enough, and when we do reach the surprise appearance at the end of the book, it feels earned.
BOTTOM LINE – SOLID START
Overall, Bedtime Games #1 is a fine start to a new series that promises to intrigue and spook in equal measure. While Keller isn’t doing anything too original with this book, it at least presents a scenario that promises a great deal. You could do worse than pick up this book.