"BlackHand Comics" Graphic Novel Review

Written by James Ferguson


Published by Image Comics




Written and Illustrated by Wes Craig
2014, 110 Pages
Graphic Novel released on October 1st, 2014


Although it's probably not any easier to get into the comic book industry today than it was years ago, there are many outlets for an up-and-coming creator to showcase their work. The internet has birthed a number of webcomics that have led for lucrative careers for a number of writers and artists. I mean, there's an actual book you can buy right now that is made up entirely of Garfield comic strips with the title character removed from the images. That's a thing that people buy with money.

Before co-creating Deadly Class with Rick Remender, artist Wes Craig produced Blackhand Comics as a webcomic. Now for the first time, Image Comics has collected three of his stories in print for the first time in a spiffy hardcover. Included in this release are The Gravedigger's Union, Circus Day, and The Seed. Each is introduced by the Carny, a playful showman, hyping up each frightening tale like Uncle Creepy or the Cryptkeeper.

Click images to enlarge

The Gravedigger's Union is more of an informational story, explaining that the folks that tend the cemetery by day, doing menial tasks like mowing lawns or trimming hedges, also work through the night, making sure the dead stay that way. It's a tough job, but these hardened men have been at it for years, taking on all kinds of demons and other hellspawn that look to rise up from the ground to terrorize humanity. Of the three tales included in BlackHand Comics, this was the one I wanted to see as an ongoing series. Craig introduces such a great concept and establishes the basic rules of this group of men. It's like an origin story.

The artwork for The Gravedigger's Union is presented in greyscale, devoid of any other colors. Craig has a real talent for art direction and design, using the space of each page in very creative ways. There's a great page where Craig is showing the price that the gravediggers pay for working this job. It shows three different men, standing tall, then there are small squares over parts of their body, showing where they've broken bones or suffered other injuries. It's a very subtle way to get a lot across, especially the third man, which has a locket with a picture of a woman inside, implying he's lost a loved one.

Click images to enlarge

Circus Day feels creepy but doesn't come across as a horror tale. Instead it's more adventurous, following a young boy as he gets lost at a carnival searching for a way inside the freak show. While The Gravedigger's Union is lacking in color, there are bucket loads of it in Circus Day. Craig uses it intelligently, highlighting specific panels or items. The tone of each page is set instantly by the shade of color used.

Finally, there's The Seed. This is a very cool story as it's presented entirely horizontally. If you were to lay all the pages out side by side, you could read the tale across. It flows as a man runs frantically away from his fate. The text appears like song lyrics, swirling around him as he continues to flee. Craig knocks it out of the park on the artwork here and really uses the medium in an awesome way that I haven't seen before. It's experimental and works very well. You can see some of that frenetic energy that exists in Deadly Class begin to take root here.

Click images to enlarge

BlackHand Comics feels like a series of pilots, each one showing a unique idea. Right when a story really starts to get going, it ends, leaving me wondering what could come next and hoping for more. I would love to see some of these developed further. I'd read a Gravedigger's Union ongoing series in a heartbeat. The Seed could easily be a short film too. It's clear by this collection that Wes Craig is a damn fine artist and has been for some time. If this is where he's been, I can't wait to see where he's going.


Story: fourstars Cover
Buy from Amazon US
Buy from Amazon UK
Art: fivestars
Overall: fourstars

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James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
Other articles by this writer



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