Daphne Byrne #1 – Laura Marks, Joe Hill, Writers; Kelley Jones, Dan McDaid, Artists; John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: One of the best things about the Hill House line is the way every book, including Daphne Byrne #1, taps into its own unique vein of horror. Basketful of Heads is classic 70’s grindhouse horror, The Dollhouse Family is nerve-jangling supernatural terror, and The Low, Low Woods is eldritch horror lurking around the fringes of our world.
Daphne Byrne #1 taps into another unique vein, that of Victorian-era gothic ghost stories. It is easily the least scary of the three in its first issue, but that’s not necessarily a criticism. It lets you find the horror yourself as you follow Daphne, an eccentric girl mourning the death of her father under shameful (but ambiguous) circumstances as her superstitious mother consults with a faith healer who claims to be able to contact the dead man. Ostracized by her former friends, Daphne’s world is mostly confined to her mother and a friendly housekeeper, but horrifying dreams continue to plague her as she tried to unravel the truth about her father.
The story here is a slow burn, full of character development punctuated by an occasional burst of horror. Writer Laura Marks effectively immerses you in the eerie world of Victorian London, but the real star here is veteran DC artist Kelley Jones. It would be a crime to do a horror line without using DC’s most iconic horror artist, and his twisted visions are as effective as they’ve ever been.
As Daphne’s conflict with her mother grows and her visions become more vivid, the issue builds to a disturbing conclusion that leaves more questions than answers. The story can be a bit vague at times, but it never lets its grip on you go as it builds a compelling mystery that I can’t wait to see unfold. This line is definitely the successor to Vertigo, but it seems to be picking up more buzz than that line had in a long time. The backup, ‘Sea Dogs,’ finally introduces its main creature but the two-page length isn’t doing it many favors in terms of pacing.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.