4 out of 5
I remained unconvinced on horror comics for a long while; that is, I appreciated them for their cheek, when done well, but they never really approached creepy or scary. But El Torres, via his Amigo imprint, has shown me several times, now, of the possibilities with the medium. No, I’m not checking over my shoulder in a cold sweat, but several of his horror books emanate an appropriate sense of ill-at-ease. In part, this is due to pairing himself with incredibly capable artists who understand mood, but there’s absolutely a large chunk owed to Torres’ structural sensibilities, and seeming awareness of what works and what doesn’t in the comic format. Here we are with another example, and in an especially difficult (though common for the genre) format: shorts. ‘Tales from the Suicide Forest’ is an extension of a previous graphic novel written by El, The Suicide Forest, which I admittedly haven’t read. But there’s no lead-in necessary here, excepting perhaps a featured character who possibly previously appeared; most of us are aware of Japan’s Aokigahara forest and its high suicide rate, just as many-a horror-tale-teller has attempted to use the setting. And going with that awareness, this one-shot, comprising two shorts, doesn’t waste time trying to justify its setup: it shows us the forest, and we know the potential it houses. In one story, Return, it harbors a secret which spurs some grisly revenge, and in Sacrifice, someone unwisely vents their rage in the woods and has the same Tales From the Cryptfully flipped on them. There are touches of EASL with Torres, as always, but – also as always – it doesn’t get in the way of his capabilities. Return dances around its ‘Why’ with an intense build-up, and Sacrifice lingers delightfully on the pieces you know are going to add up to bad news before putting them concisely together. Within the few pages allotted for each story, Torres uses his pacing carefully to effect the intended creepiness. In both cases, there’s a dash of overkill, and there’s certainly no surprise in how things turn out, but it’s still an involving read.
Our aptly chosen artist this time is Fran Galán, working diligently in a sketchy black and white with perfect grey-tones to give it life and mood. Fran’s figures have a slight manga breeziness to them, but the framing and shadows are pure genre.
Amigo is nigh a one-man writing show for El, but he continues to churn out quality. And thus I’ll continue to read ’em.