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"Nita Hawes' Nightmare Blog - The Fire Next Time" Comic Review

Written by Ricardo Serrano Denis

Published by Image Comics


Originally published as Nita Hawes' Nightmare Blog #1 - #6

Written by Rodney Barnes
Illustrated by Patric Reynolds, Well-Bee, Szymon Kudranski
Colored by Luis NCT, Mar Silvestre Galloto
2022, 160 pages
Trade Paperback released on 18th May 2022


Any kind of talk on the current place of vampires in comics has to include Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexandre’s Killadelphia. It’s become its own horror institution by now, a new standard for the genre. Its mix of classic vamp elements with current sensibilities regarding racism, policing, and violence (with a few Founding Father vampires thrown in as well) have all worked to elevate the story into something that quite simply needed to expand into other series to fully explore.

In comes Nita Hawes’ Nightmare Blog, a separate series set in the vampire world of Killadelphia but with different monsters making the rounds, this time in the city of Baltimore.

Written by Barnes and illustrated by Patric Reynolds, Well-Bee, and Symon Kudranski, the story follows the titular Nita Hawes, a parapsychology professor who operates a blog focused on the unexplained while also wrestling with things that defy explanation herself. She sees the ghost of her younger brother, who was the victim of a police shooting. He acts as a kind of partner to Nita while also acting as a constant reminder of her trauma.

Click images to enlarge

Volume one of the series, subtitled The Fire Next Time, pits Nita against Corson, a high-ranking demon of Hell that wants to acquire the paranormal blogger’s soul. He possesses the catatonic body of a black musician with a history of betrayal that’s ripe for manipulation. African gods, monster cops, and angry specters all make an appearance before the first arc of the series comes to a close, laying the foundation for future cases that Nita can investigate.

Barnes has proven to be a master in the creation of relatable characters that readers can feel very well-acquainted with after spending just a short amount of time with them. The very first issue, for instance, presents Nita as a complete character, her psychological and emotional scars laid bare for the reader to find a connection with or empathize with. Her conversations with her dead brother’s ghost, for example, are particularly impressive as they contain a lot of character development without making the inner workings of that process come off as obvious or heavy-handed.

One of the strongest characters from this first arc, though, is that of the blues singer that the demon Corson possesses: Howling Henry. His backstory echoes a history of discriminatory and abusive business dealings between black artists and powerful white producers who would tie up these performers in sinister contract clauses that misappropriated their material while prohibiting them from producing new music elsewhere. Brushing up on the histories of musicians such as Willie Dixon, Chester ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ Burnett, and Robert Johnson will reveal a bit more as to the history that drives the character and comes highly recommended. Howling Henry is led by the anger of past wrongs done unto him and he intends to correct them, wrongs that Corson latches onto to turn him into a hyperviolent monstrosity that sings the blues as he dismembers his victims.

Click images to enlarge

It would’ve been easy to stick with an antagonist that’s irredeemable and wholly deserving of the reader’s scorn, but Howling Henry’s story complicates things and makes for one of the best horror villains in recent memory.

Patric Reynolds’ art explores Howling Henry’s wrath to a deeply terrifying degree, transforming the world around him and the characters he faces into playthings that need only suffer his vengeance. Despite this, Reynolds is careful never to paint Nita as helpless or weak. She’s portrayed with a force and strength that commands the attention of everyone involved in the various horror sequences, be it from human or inhuman characters.

The same approach carries over from artist to artist, with Well-Bee taking over issue #2-3 and Szymon Kudranski finishing the first arc. While there’s not a single step missed among them when it comes to visuals, the kind of horror aesthetic Reynolds sets in the first issue gives Nita Hawes its own identity and its absence is felt in subsequent issues. The monsters Howling Henry was capable of pushing out of his body as new appendages, for instance, reach peak horror with Reynolds. Well-Bee and Kudrasnki do their best with it and succeed, but Reynolds’ touch leaves enough of an impression to question why he didn’t take over the entire arc.

Luis NCT and Mar Silvestre Galloto’s colors do offer a reliable sense of continuity throughout the changes in art. In any case, the change is at its most notable in the issue Kudranski illustrates. His style is distinctive in both line work and shading, with blacks and neon-like blues overpowering his pages. It doesn’t distract or hinder the reading process in the slightest, but the differences are noticeable enough that it’ll be hard not thinking about what could have been if Reynolds would have illustrated the entirety of the series.

One aspect of Nita Hawes’ character that I do hope becomes more prevalent in future instalments is her blogging. In The Fire Next Time, it’s kept to a minimum, as a means to further the plot in one or two instances. Given how this element does remind somewhat of Kolchak: The Night Stalker in its potential for adding investigative or journalistic beats to the overarching plot, it would be interesting to see Nita indulge in it further.

Nita Hawes’ Nightmare Blog, vol. 1 is an example of what shared universes should aspire to. It rewards fans of the main series but is independent enough to also act as a good entry point for readers unfamiliar with Killadelphia. It contains characters readers can genuinely care for and terrors you can’t avert your eyes from. It’s a horror comic with a sense of history that invites fears both real and imagined, and it demands to be read as not just one of the best horror comics on the stands, but also as one of our most important.


Story: Fourandahalfstars Cover
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Art: Fourstars
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Ricardo Serrano Denis
Staff Writer
Ricardo believes that everything can be explained with horror. It’s why he uses it in his History classes and why he writes about horror comics. He holds a Master’s degree in Comics from the University of Dundee in Scotland in which he studied the relationship between Frankenstein and Marvel’s Ultron. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is now based in Brooklyn.
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