Tuesday 2 April 2024

Hemlock Ave - Book One: Hopes & Nightmares (2024) - Horror Graphic Novel Review


Hemlock Ave is a new horror anthology, which is a spin-off of author Richard T. Wilson's Halloween Girl series. Hemlock Ave - Book One: Hopes & Nightmares is the first in this series and is made up of four different short stories. Wilson has stated that the pandemic of recent years was a big influence on this new book, saying '...that woke our souls up in some very dramatic ways.'

An anthology always needs a good theme to it, and here, the titular Hemlock Ave is the theme. This appears to be a strange place between life and death where people are given the option to confront their life choices. It starts with 'Last Exodus' in which a man has been dared to go touch a certain tombstone in a graveyard at midnight. On his way he encounters a strange woman who decides to tell him a story about the man who rests beneath the grave he had been dared to touch. The lettering and illustration for this was by Pietro Vaughan, the art was crisp and clear with its black and white starkness. The story itself felt like something out of The Twilight Zone, I liked how it managed to fit in both references to 9-11 as well as the concentration camps of the second world war in an interesting way. My only real complaint would be that some of the panels looked stretched in odd directions, but other than that this was a fun first story.
Next up was 'Rose (By Any Other Name)'. This one had art and lettering by Shahed.R and have to say it was very impressive. I loved the shading on this, and thought the people drawn here looked almost photo realistic, very cool. This one had a middle aged woman who seeks refuge at a nearby house after her car breaks down during a heavy rainstorm. Speaking with the two women who live in there, she talks of regrets of how she lived her life, and is faced with the prospect of maybe being able to start over again.

Penultimate take is the sweet 'Bus Stops & Bacon', again with fantastic art by Shahed.R. In this one a young boy waits at a bus stop, intending to meet his stern father. Instead he meets a strange women who explains to him that he can't be responsible for other peoples happiness and that is up to them.
Finally is 'Free Range', with the art back to Pietro Vaughan. A man who was forced to raise himself due to uncaring parents is given the opportunity to confront what his perceived satisfying childhood was really like.

I thought the format here worked well, having a lost character encountering a strange female who seemed to know more about them than possible worked well. I also liked that the horror was understated. Characters are forced to confront their pasts, but often with understanding and compassion shown to them. I thought the art of Shahed.R was astounding, characters were so expressive and natural looking, making for panels that were a joy to look at. Throughout there was a good message given, with the supernatural used as a way to bring the humanity out of the characters. Hemlock Ave - Book One: Hopes & Nightmares is available for pre-order (from here), and includes autographed copies by the author. The book releases on April 26th.


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