Vertigo always had a success by teasing out the issues in the public Zeitgeist in their books. The early books showed a certain deconstruction in conventional heroism, heading into post-modern times, yet also a yearning towards fantasy, religion, and transcendence. Vertigo shifted into the direction of creator-owned comics several years ago, dropping their licensed characters almost entirely, yet much of its themes stayed really the same. Now Vertigo is shifting back into the direction that Image went in and they can again be seen as a microcosm of the larger issues.
With that in mind, in walks Survivors’ Club #1.
The book, written by Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen and drawn by Ryan Kelly, starts with a women gathering together people that have “survived.” The group are all presented with a year, 1987, when they were said to have survived some major catastrophe. The hostess tells a story of an arcade where she blew off steam from her troubled family. It was there she found a game in the back that once she started playing she could not stop, even as a storm tore apart the arcade and killed her family. The others experience horrors, like being trapped in a haunted house and confronted with a doll alive and bent on murder. She brought them together with their names off of a list, and the fear that this is happening once again.
What you can see here is a clear sense of paranoia about the modern world, especially looking at where that modern world began(in this case it was 1987). While many of these catastrophes are traditional horror fare, there is a sense that it is part and parcel with the alienation of modern life. This gives an interesting sensibility to Survivors Club where there is a general melancholy and distrust of the world as a whole.
Ryan Kelly does a great job of keeping the visuals both rich and visceral, just like he did with Northlanders. Lauren Beukes is best known as a horror novelist, which this certainly feels like, and the package reminds us of the earlier Coffin Hill made more relevant and challenging.
Unlike with Twilight Children, there is not quite enough here to get a sense of how well this series will play, but it is certainly attractive and will make committed readers for at least the first arc. It also reminds us of what Vertigo can be, and that may be the best contribution that we have. Each page has a certain creepiness to it, a sense that there is more here than we know, but also flashes of extreme terror. Horror comics are a great staple of “mature readers” indie titles, and it is wonderful to see Vertigo reclaim its spot in that world.