Piecemeal is the start of Aftershock comics’ latest release in a run of one-shots intended to showcase the publisher’s talented creators. The story follows five high school friends on one last night out in a haunted house before 3 of them depart for college and adulthood. In this house, they find a disembodied brain in a jar and with it death finds them.
When it comes to horror in the comic genre, it relies heavily on art. The writing is still important, but the art sets the mood and carries the terror. Szymon Kudranski’s art sets the mood of this one-shot perfect. It is dark, dreary, and often times lifeless. This serves a dual purpose. The town the teens live in is old there isn’t much going on, so the cold dreary look reflects this. When the horror begins the colors shift and reds and purples become prominent. This isn’t the only time the color changes though. It also reflects the lighter and more fun moments the teens share when out together. When the colors are dark though it adopts a similar feel to the old black and white horror films. The best comparison I can make is the night of the living dead. The calm fear and gruesome details stick with you.
Writing this is Cullen Bunn. The story itself is gripping in the mystery that unfolds over the course of the issue. The reveal of the monster is fragmented into pieces over the course of the various deaths and dream sequences. Cullen takes the title literally in his storytelling method and in the antagonist. Without getting into spoilers, I’ll say it is a great way to take a word and make it literal in both the storytelling and the monster.
Szymon’s art draws the eye and makes sure that the reader knows the different pieces of the story being told per page. You won’t be confused about what is happening where or when, unlike other series. The only problem I had with the writing was the inner dialogue of Jamie, our main character. I did two readings of this, and on my second pass through I ignored the inner dialogue and it reads far better without his inner thoughts. While they show his reasoning and motivations the story reads more straightforward without and is much more like a movie experience without them.
As a launching title for Aftershocks Showcase, this is a great start. It’s a classic small-town horror story and will draw you in as the mystery unfolds. It makes you wonder ‘what is happening’ and that feeling keeps you going. The writing is less impressive than the art, but the story’s structure is what makes it just as good as the art. This is a must-read for fans of low key horror mysteries who want some disturbing imagery and page-turning intrigue.