I would love this issue if it conveyed half of the emotional and creative ideas the character summaries at the back of the issue had, but unfortunately the pacing and ultimately the execution kept this title back when it could have been exception. Though I will say it stands out on the shelves with a fantastically painted cover (and of course, none of the interior artwork has this painted style), and it has some great, creative and clever deaths that will make the average horror hound smile in glee at all the blood...
After killing a fellow inmate, Visher is sentenced to the gas chamber and is killed by Zyklon B, the trade name of a cyanide-based pesticide infamous for its use by Nazi Germany (a horrific and realistic concept that is never exploited here). But with the help of his cellmate – and knowledge of the dark arts – Visher becomes something even more terrifying and deadly. Now, he's after the people who wronged him in life.
Like most horror titles, the gore in this issue overshadows the story. There are some great deaths. The artist not only takes advantage of the color red, but the writer uses Visher's new gaseous form to torment his enemies with the littlest things like a cup of coffee, making nothing seem safe.
But while it's essential for a horror title to have great gore, the story should be the centerpiece. A lot of the dialogue feels cliché or contradicts something happening in future panels. One example is the intro of Visher, who spouts several clichéd villainous lines about how no one understands him and how he doesn't even think he remembers ever being human – despite on the very next page flashbacking and telling the doctor about his life before turning into a deadly toxin.
The real issue, however, is that while the ending of the issue starts to actually hit a vein (and also has a clever escape act), the rest of the issue never introduces any of the emotional distress in the character summaries. Caleb, Visher's friend, cellmate and dark arts specialist, is barely given any lines or vague characterization, nor is the doctor who is barely given any panel time but is established as a sympathetic listener. The first impressions of these characters is not spectacular and little time seems devoted to their characterization, just Visher's creation. And death. A lot of death. Normally, if this were an on-going series, this would be okay, but there is not a lot of time to explore these characters since Zyklon B is only a four issue mini-series.
The artwork has a lot of great horrific moments thanks to the combined efforts of illustrator, colorist and letterer. Illustrator Joel J. Cotejar has great full-paged spread and some over lining. There are several great full-panel shots like Visher's execution scene, which is made the better with some bright mesh of red and brown coloring from colorist Mike Summers. The only thing ruining that panel is some of the artwork in the small circular panels on the page. A lot of character designs have greatly disproportioned bodies that are over lined with ripples and overshadowed. But the gore is done well, as are the eyes of the characters which several times look creepily possessed at all the right moments. The letterer, Mindy Lopkin, makes up great dialogue bubbles for Visher that match his gaseous form and add to the feel of horror on the pages.
This is not a terrible title and is one of the better independent and horror titles with some very creative deaths, but it had so much more potential to be an emotional story and not just a blood fest - not that I'm complaining, I like blood as much as the next horror hound. And after reading the character summaries, I want to read the rest of the mini-series to see if the more emotional aspects of them can come to life, but if I had not read these character summaries I would not be as anxious to read the next issue. These are great summaries to wrangle in new readers, but spoils a lot of revelations the mini-series could have had.
However, after hearing that this is the first time Adam Cheal wrote a comic, this first is impressive. Despite being critical of the characterization, the story and deaths are unique and this is a good addition to a comic book and horror library – I'm just waiting for it to get fantastic in the next couple of issues.
An all-around nerdette, I’m a comic book connoisseur, horror aficionado, video game addict, anime enthusiast and an aspiring novelist/comic book writer. I am the head of the comic book department and the editor-in-chief of Entertainment Fuse. I also write and edit articles for Comic Frontline. I am also an intern at Action Lab Entertainment, a comic book publisher at which I edit comic book scripts, help work on images in solicitations and help with other comic book related project. My own personal website is comicmaven.com.