Lost in the wilderness and caring for an odd infant-like being, Eulalie DuBois finds she is not the only person trying to find the town to the north. What will she find instead? Find out in Black Stars Above #3 from Vault Comics!

Black Stars Above #3 ReviewBLACK STARS ABOVE #3

Writer: Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Jenna Cha
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Adrian F. Wassel
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 29,2020

Previously in Black Stars Above: It is 1887 and it is winter. Eulalie Dubois realizes that her life consists of tending her family’s trapline in the wilderness unless she gets married. The opportunity to visit town presents itself – all she has to do is deliver a package. She sets out, becomes lost, and discovers an otherworldly infant. It isn’t human, but it’s more than just an animal. As the temperature drops and the snow flies, she also discovers it thrives on the cold that rapidly is becoming dangerous to her.

A LONG, COLD WINTER

Black Stars Above #3 is a strange and chilling story. I feel physically cold when I read it. As it opens, Eulalie has found her way to a cabin where there are two men and a boy. One of the men is ill, lying on the floor in front of the fire. The boy is playing with a Punch puppet. It is oddly surreal. The man and boy are hunters, and times are tough. All the animals are disappearing; neither trapping nor hunting are good.

They pour her a drink, and she has a hallucination or vision of the cup shattering in her hand and the liquor pouring out like blood. As the hunter gets her attention again, asking what she’s doing out here all alone, she sees tally marks carved in the table – counting days? The injured man is a surveyor from Ottawa. He is up here to investigate rumors of a settlement to the north.

It eventually comes out that Eulalie is looking for the northern town. The hunter tells her it’s unlikely she’ll find it because she wasn’t invited. It’s the same place the surveyor was looking for. The hunter rambles on more about rumors of the city, and as his rambling becomes more religious/mythic, he starts taking his clothes off and he walks out into the snow.

He comes back shortly with the wrapped infant and, making a horrible moment more horrible, hints that he intends for them to eat it. But when he unwraps it and sees it is not human, he drops it. Eulalie grabs it and flees, going back to her toboggan and supplies. The infant warns her that the hunter is coming. She fights him off with a hatchet and sets out, now with just that and the infant.

A journal features prominently, and that’s an interesting way of communicating Eulalie’s thoughts. And it is inner thoughts we read, not the sort of thing she would say to anyone. And then, beneath a tree still full of red leaves, she finds a journal. It belonged to Arthur Tanner, a former trapper turned inspector for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was sent out to look at the state of trapping and the fur trade, but soon it wanders off into strange dreams, and then it too talks about a northern settlement, rich in furs. Everyone knows about it, and he starts to search for it. This is when he starts seeing strange black stars in the sky. Eulalie finishes reading, but feels a connection to the writer. She picks up the pen, and we see that her journal entries that we’ve been reading were added to Tanner’s journal.

This story is very dreamlike, as befitting cosmic horror. I like the ruminative solitude of the book overall, as well as the cabin fever-like bizarreness of the hunter, surveyor, and boy. Are these things real and horrible, or are they hallucinations and harbingers of madness?

AN UNRELENTING BLEAKNESS

There aren’t a lot of things that people have in Black Stars Above #3, so any possession depicted takes on some importance. I think this also adds to the tone of the book. Life as a hunter or trapper involved following the game, something one cannot do with loads of stuff. Couple that with the starkness of winter and you really get a feel for how bleak Eulalie’s life can be. People’s expressions are haunting and somewhat shuttered. When you see a fleeting odd expression, it makes you wonder what undercurrents are here. I like the lettering technique where some of the surveyor’s lines are upside down when our point of view of him is also looking at him upside down.

The color palette is so muted. Indoors is predominantly sepia tones which fits with small cabins lit by a fireplace. Outdoors is the blue-gray tint of snow and the darker gray of skeletal trees, dormant for the winter. When we see things that are red, it really draws the eye, and red is used repeatedly for important things, such as the box the infant was in, the journal, the tree where Eulalie finds the journal, the liquor, and, of course, blood.

BOTTOM LINE: DEEPLY EVOCATIVE

I won’t lie, Black Stars Above #3 is strange and a little confusing at times. This issue is wordy, especially with the journal pages, but everything works together to set the tone. If your jam is fast-paced monster fights, this is probably not for you, but if you like something that slowly sets you on edge, check this one out.


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Black Stars Above #3

80%
80%
Deeply Evocative

Is the Northern Town, supposedly somewhere in the Green Ribbon, even real?

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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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