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"Slash Them All" Graphic Novel Review

Written by Ricardo Serrano Denis

Published by Fantagraphics

slash them all cover 01

Written and illustrated by Antoine Maillard
Translated by Jenna Allen
September 20, 2022, 152 pages


The slasher highlights a problem people generally struggle to make sense of: serial killers. What makes them? Is there a blueprint or a definitive origin story that explains them? Is killing small animals always a marker of a slasher-to-be? It should be noted that slashers and serial killers aren’t exactly synonymous when it comes to horror fiction. The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill isn’t the same type of killer a character like Freddy Krueger is, or Michael Myers even. There are degrees of reality and of violent designs that separates them.

Antoine Maillard’s Slash Them All considers this phenomenon, that this very scary and very real worrysome random, but seemingly normal-looking, person could be a sadistic butcher complete with his or her own methods and rituals. The way Maillard approaches the slasher, though, considers the killer as a catalyst that changes the entire ecosystem of a tight-knit community, opening forbidden doors wide open to invite all manner of evil in.

Winner for Best Crime Graphic Novel at the 2022 Angoulême International Comics Festival, Slash Them All follows Daniel and Pola, two high schoolers that live in a seaside town that’s living in the shadow of an ecological disaster that tainted the area some years past. A baseball bat-wielding serial killer stalks the streets, his reign of terror starting with the deaths of two adolescent girls from the local school. In an instant, Daniel and Pola’s coming-of-age phase is thrust head first into a place where paranoia and primal fear are reluctantly paired with the already devious anxieties of youth.

The book’s back cover states that Maillard’s story acts as a tribute to 1980s American horror cinema, a curious claim given it doesn’t necessarily take from the more popular entries of subgenre in that decade. In terms of tone, it’s more Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than Nightmare on Elm Street, though it has influences from both if you look at the finer details of the story.

Characters are in a constant state of alert as the killer obliterates the status quo, but instead of settling on a boisterous killer with a loud visual design and color palette, it goes for a more muted approach that speaks to the horrors within the killer rather than what's on the surface. Considering the slasher is a man dressed like a baseball fan, bat in hand, the character carries an unsettling sense of normalcy about him. It helps to create a tense and danger-filled atmosphere where the chance of survival for the brand of innocence that’s often associated with small town life reaches a very bleak low.

Click images to enlarge.

Going into detail on the story’s developments, nuanced and delicate that they are, would be spoiling the read, but it does bear mentioning that slasher conventions here aim at something more complicated than the usual flair. The concept of a killer being a force of evil that infects an entire place puts certain genre tropes under a different light, framing the slasher as a kind of virus that gives people license to let their darker sides manifest publicly. It’s not that good people turn bad suddenly. It’s that the bad that was already there is given permission to let loose.

Maillard gives the reader a lot space to read into things and interpret by keeping the dialogue simple and to a minimum. The book sings in its moments of prolonged silence and static imagery. Its grey-toned aesthetic makes these instances even more effective, imbuing the narrative with a rawness that crawls underneath the skin.

Fans of Satoshi Kon’s anime The Paranoia Agent (2005) might find a kind of kinship between its own baseball bat-wielding menace called Lil’ Slugger and Slash Them All’s baseball bat killer. In the anime, Lil’ Slugger acts as an agent of chaos with a twisted sense of justice (sometimes justified, sometimes less so) that ends up saying more about the people he assualts rather than his own moral proclivities. Slash Them All’s slugger also uses his own brand of violence to expose the degrees of moral decay that had already set in the small seaside town.

This is something the slasher does well, perhaps better than any other subgenre. The killer can be seen as a dark avenging angel that resorts to murder to offer his or her own commentary on the state of morality and behavior in a specific context. It doesn’t make the killer an anti-hero or a misunderstood good guy. When done well, it can speak to the things we repress as a society and how our appreciation of those things is not met with the soundest of logics.

Don’t forget, the slasher kills with sadistic intent. His or her interest doesn’t lie in fixing something for the greater good. Instead, they want to eradicate the problem without much input from anyone else. There’s nothing fair about it. Blood settles the score.

Slash Them All invites a deep dive into the world and culture of the slasher to get us thinking on our capacity to create or become killers, especially in how they become worlds unto themselves. Maillard showcases his ability to create complex characters whose psyches resemble mystery boxes that repel clear-cut answers to the questions they pose. Much like the killer (or killers) within it, Slash Them All makes the reader feel unsafe and perhaps even a little paranoid. It invites us to reckon with our own inner darkness, to consider whether we could ever pick up the knife and do some carving of our own.


Story: fivestars Cover
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Art: Fivestars
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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