Sometimes all it takes to make me pull out my wallet for a comic is the creative team, especially if it’s an unusual combination or a line-up I haven’t seen get up on stage together before.
When I first heard about Lot 13 teaming writer Steve Niles with cover artist extraordinaire Glenn Fabry doing interior sequentials on an original, never-before seen horror-oriented project, I was sold then and there. What’s it about, exactly? Doesn’t matter, here’s my three bucks. With that duo, I can go in not knowing a blessed (or perhaps more aptly, given these gentlemen, cursed) thing and feel confident I’ll walk away at the very least satisfied, if not wowed.
Lot 13 begins in the year 1670, in the village of Fairfax, colony of Virginia, with a man named Robert Richard Wyatt on public trial for the murders of his wife and his three children. The twist: Wyatt’s already dead, having committed suicide, and since taking your own life is itself considered a crime — thanks to an official decree by King Louis XIV — the resulting kangaroo court’s judgement is swift and brutal: the angry colonists practically tear the corpses of the Wyatt family to shreds and give them an ignominious burial in a mass grave.
If the image of dirt being shoveled on the upturned face of Robert Richard Wyatt, his lifeless eye still somehow expressing an angry glare, doesn’t clue you in that this is not going to end well for someone, then you haven’t watched nearly enough horror flicks.
Flash-foward to the present, where a modern-day equivalent of the Wyatts — a father, mother, and three siblings — are in the process of moving from a cramped inner city apartment to their long-sought-after suburban dream house. While dealing with the necessary introductions of our protagonists, Niles wastes no time bringing in the weird: Mom tussles with a malfunctioning cell phone, showing a family photograph that is somehow showing the brood with skeletal faces and the word ‘DIE’ scrawled across the screen. As Dad rounds up the youngest, Austin, he sees him standing and apparently talking to a boy who turns out to not have actually been there. For whatever reason, this likeable all-American domestic unit is going to pay the price for what happened the the Wyatts three-plus centuries ago.
Subtle? About as much as a sledgehammer-wielding maniac riding a demonic bull through a china shop. That’s really the point, though — Lot 13 is Steve Niles picking up his keyboard and tapping out his best Paranormal Activity riff. If this isn’t your cup of tea going in, there’s nothing about this brew that’s going to win you over. If you do enjoy the genre, then you can kick back, put up your feet, and savor the aroma of a classic EC-style tale of the macabre done with modern creative sensibilities.
Glenn Fabry’s masterful artwork elevates the material far beyond its midnight matinée B-movie roots. I’ve always been impressed by his powerful, eye-catching cover illustrations on comics like Preacher, and his interiors are no less impressive. Be warned: there’s no small amount of gore, but it’s done rather tastefully (well, as ‘tasteful’ as a young boy being splattered across the hood of a U-Haul can get). Fabry forgoes traditional inking in Lot 13, instead letting colorist Adam Brown finish his pencils with rich, textured colorwork that gives the art a very pleasing handcrafted sort of look with just a splash of digital FX. For the snobs that stick up their noses at horror material — any sort of comic should be this visually impressive. If you’re a fan of Fabry’s work, then Lot 13 is worth picking up just for the artwork alone.
The first issue does feel like watching about the first half-hour or so of a nicely shot, expertly directed film. I give Steve Niles much credit for goosing the supernatural elements right away rather than the typically slow, sometimes tedious getting-to-know-these-folks-before-we-scare-the-#$%& out-of-them first act — it requires a deft touch making that work without it seeming like a crass shock tactic, and he does pull it off nicely. Combine that writing sensibility with Glenn Fabry’s artwork and some phenomenal colors by Adam Brown, and this is a crowd-pleasing package . . . as long as the crowd is in it for the thrills and chills. I personally love to see a genre piece that’s done with talent and skill, that fully embraces its roots and is not in the least bit ashamed of them, or stumbles around awkwardly trying to avoid tropes while unsure of exactly what it really wants to be. Lot 13 is an unabashedly, classic old-school horror comic, love it or leave it.
Me, I’ll take two, please.
Previous Public Domain Reviews: