The frozen solid bodies of two victims layer menace on top of mystery as Dan Kerr seeks his daughter and her mother on an isolated island in Cold Spots #2 from Image Comics.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Mark Torres
Letters: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 26th, 2018
Previously in Cold Spots: Dan Kerr has come in search of his daughter and her mother Alyssa on the mysterious Quarrels Island. Deeper mysteries and foreboding follow him as an inexplicable phenomenon claims the lives of those living on the mainland. In searching for his daughter, will Dan unleash an icy malignancy?
QUIET HORROR IS THE BEST SORT HORROR
It’s a little-known fact, and probably best kept that way that your reviewer has been writing short horror fiction for the better part of the last decade. And for someone who cut their teeth on movies like the Exorcist, before graduating to the more in your face fare of The Thing, My Bloody Valentine and The Amityville Horror, it may come as a surprise that the horror I enjoy the most is ‘quiet’ horror.
English writer Ramsey Campbell is the undisputed master of the indirect approach to literary horror fiction. With books like the Grin of the Dark or The Darkest Part of the Wood, he has made an art form of building menace and horror through carefully crafting a suffocating sense of atmosphere that overwhelms the characters and the audience, often leaving both to question their sanity before the darkness overwhelms them.
Cold Spots #2 very definitely falls into the same horror tradition. There’s no blood and guts, no masked invulnerable serial killer hacking their way through an endless supply of high school teens. Instead, there’s a damaged, angry loner by the name of Dan Kerr, traveling to the coast to find an old lover and the daughter he fathered in the past. Along the way, mysterious incidents involving the cold crop up, and the bodies of two locals, frozen solid before shattering into thousands of cubes, are found by the police.
Cullen Bunn (Bone Parish) is no stranger to horror. With Cold Spots #2, he moves the story along, developing and broadening it out from the opening issue. Main character Dan Kerr is depicted as being sensitive to the situation around him, but not so much that it slows his search for Alyssa, the women who bore their daughter. While the incidents of cold grow and become lethal to the local community, Kerr puts his head in the noose by traveling to Quarrels Island, where his former lover resides with their child.
This sort of horror is long on suggestion and short on definitive answers. The frozen corpses are definitely a mystery, but there’s no effort in Cold Spots #2 to resolve the cause. There’s no point at this stage as playing out the mystery only adds to the mystery. Instead, there’s an effective use of the slightly awkward artwork, with stiff characters in awkward poses displayed against sparse backgrounds adding an unreal sensation to the narrative.
While Bunn does a pretty good job with the story, advancing it along to the next signpost (discovering Alyssa and also his very spooky daughter), the real heavy lifting of the issue is done by artist Mark Torres. As mentioned before, the artwork and design are sparsely rendered, for the most part. Torres gets away with depicting his characters with shadowed or hidden eyes, which deepens the sensation of the uncanny throughout the issue.
The uncanny feel to the issue is strengthened by the static poses of the characters. This feels like a design choice, and not simply an artistic affection by Torres. Look at the first few pages of the issue, where characters are shown from odd angles, or stand around looking awkward. It all seems designed to put the reader slightly off-kilter and at odds with any rational explanation for what is going on
BOTTOM LINE – HOOKS YOU AND REELS YOU IN
At some point, Cold Spots will have to pull off the band-aid and explain exactly what is going on and who the cause is. But until that unhappy day, issues like Cold Spot #2 will continue to unravel slowly and delicately, with incidents occurring with no rational explanation, and the artwork building an unnerving atmosphere that traps not only the characters, but ourselves. Bunn and Torres have embarked upon a delicate balancing act. In our era of instant gratification, with visual horror presenting blood and guts in almost every scene, to ask patience of the audience is a brave, but necessary undertaking. While the destination is some time away, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere as it wraps itself insidiously around you.