Jay Stephens makes his glorious return to comics after a 20 year absence and we are all the richer for it. Seriously, if you have never read Atomic City Tales, the Land of Nod, or Jetcat Clubhouse do yourself a favor and hunt these books down. Stephens has been understandably busy during the years with his animated projects such as Tutenstein and The Secret Saturdays, as well as newspaper comics strips and more. Still, it feels good to have him doing comic books again, and the Kickstarter backed Dwellings #1 does not disappoint.
Dwellings is a beautiful mashup of Tales From The Crypt horror done in a Harvey Comics art style. The retro cuteness and bloody content are nicely accentuated by the distressed design work, the glossy cover, and the uncoated interior paper to give the book a disturbingly nostalgic twinge. To top off the entire presentation the book also includes some pretty great fake ads as well as a short mini-comic strip and more.
The core story is a nice creepy suspense/horror piece following a teen in witness protection that murders a mafia thug who was planning to expose him. After the local crows get their fill from the corpse, they seem to be following the young murderer in hopes of receiving their next meal. The kid slowly goes mad as he's haunted by their caws and starts to think he's part of the murder of crows.
The juxtaposition of style and content works so well with Stephen's storytelling skills, harkening back to some of the creepier subtle material I recall back in his older works. The mix of existential horror, anxiety, and the generous amounts of gore are nicely enhanced by the Richie Rich-like style of the character designs. It's also perfectly paced, giving us a tight done-in-one EC styled horror story that leaves an impression but doesn't overstay its welcome. I'm really looking forward to more issues and what else Stephens has planned to expand the series, and it sounds like the Kickstarter was extremely successful (1850% funded!) so that's a great sign for the future.
Thankfully this is available to buy directly from Black Eye Books, so I highly recommend supporting them and picking up a physical copy. The $5.24 price point ($6.66 Canadian) may seem a little pricey for a 36-page comic, but there are no ads (except the great fake ones), the paper quality and design is a lot of fun and part of the entire package, and it's a small press project. Show some love and support the return of a great comic creator.