Crypt of Shadows #1 // Review
Back in 1971, there were revisions made to the Comics Code that allowed for mainstream comics to publish horror again for the first time in over a decade. With the freshly conjured 1970s title Crypt of Shadows, Marvel could dive into old horror stories that appeared in long-dead titles with names like Adventures into Terror, Strange Tales and Tales to Astonish. In celebration of its 80th anniversary, Marvel resurrects Crypt of Shadows as a brand-new anthology series with all-new material. The opening issue features two stories nestled inside a third that are all written by Al Ewing--each drawn by a different artists. Artists Stephen Green, Djibril Morissette-Pham and Garry Brown bring the stories to the page with color by Chris O’Halloran.
The three stories all feature dogs as the central element of terror. The wraparound story Cynophobia regards the titular irrational fear of dogs. A man suffering from the phobia is undergoing therapy for his fear of dogs. The visual of this therapy is drawn to resemble the classical Freudian psychotherapy set-up with a psychiatrist, a notepad, a client and a couch. The doctor asks the protagonist to explain his fear of dogs. In the process of doing so, he delivers the two other stories, which all tie together in an uneasy, unsettling miasma at the end of the issue.
Horror anthologies have a tasty history that traverses every major mass-medium. Horror anthologies with individual stories resting within a larger wraparound narrative has been done quite often as well. Ewing does something rather clever with the format that feels kind of novel in this issue. As the tales are fused together in a therapeutic consultation with a psychiatrist, they all bleed together in the mind of a very confused and equally troubled man. The strange fusion that happens at the end of the issue feels like a clever touch.
Garry Brown’ art on the wraparound has a scratchy, sketchy anger about it that emphasizes animal brutality and moodiness over canine terror. It feels crude and primitive in a way that fits the psychological aspects of the story. Stephen Green’s clumpy darkness immerses the tale of a grave digger who has a canine encounter. To his credit, Green’s got a real flare for delivering animalistic aggression to the page. Djibril Morissette-Pham’s art is heavy on the ink in a story that features a cute, little Scottish terrier named Archie. Moriseette-Pham lowers into a human brutality residing in tastefully blocky faces contemplating a darkness.
A return to horror anthology feels like a good move for Marvel. The initial issue lurks around in the potential of such a series with a clever, little plot structure featuring stories that are breezy, little narrative chills. The traditional action that glides around on the page of most comics is nice and everything, but it’s nice to see some of the inky darkness return to Marvel’s pages.