MOUNTAINHEAD VOL. 1 out January 13, 2021, from IDW Publishing, is the first collected edition of the horror series by writer John Lees, artist Ryan Lee, colorist Doug Garbark, and letterer Shawn Lee. The series is the perfect combination between profound, emotional character arcs and a truly horrifying tale.
About the series:
Abraham Stubbs and his father Noah roam America in a nomadic existence. Convinced sinister government forces are pursuing them, Noah has them living off the grid, burgling houses to survive. Elsewhere, on Mount Rector, the lone survivor of a climbing expedition staggers homeward, covered in blood. Both are on an inevitable collision course with the picturesque Canadian resort town of Braeriach. Massive storm clouds are brewing. The animals are running. Something else is on its way.
Lees knows exactly how to craft a beautiful, engaging horror story. Every aspect of his writing works in this book and makes you fall in love with Mountainhead a little more. Each character talks like a real person would talk. The brilliant jump scares wakes up the reader, and right from the very start of this comic, they could easily tell through everything going on in the background and in the front: something messed up is about go down. When the messed up stuff does start happening, the reader is already so invested in the characters and their journey that they’ll accept anything Lees throws at them.
But, what I’d truly want to give high praise for is the way Lees handles Abraham, the main character, and his character arc. The reader instantly falls in love with this brave, scrawny kid and understands each choice he makes throughout the story. Abraham may be broken in more ways than one, but because of that, it’s all the easier to connect with him. All the readers can see a little of Abraham in them. But, especially, his character arc ends up being incredibly satisfying to the reader. It truly feels like something has changed about Abraham forever.
Ryan Lee’s artwork in this book is phenomenal. His unique, highly-detailed art style never ceases to amaze the reader. Somehow, it even resembles the works of Tim Burton. The acting looks and feels real and manages to convey the character’s emotions beautifully. There are actually a few instances in this book where a character starts monologuing over a full page, and Lee chooses to draw the panel with only one “shot type” and angle throughout the entire page. But, this never feels boring to look at. With each new panel, small changes further engage the reader in the monologue and tell them more about those characters.
Although, what really catches the eye in Mountainhead Vol. 1 is Lee’s stunning panel layouts. Some layouts are ordinary for a reason. Lee wants us to feel comfortable while reading these pages. He almost wants us to feel complacent. But, when the horrifying, grotesque things happen, Lee goes all out with his layouts and present the reader with some of the most imaginative panel layouts I’ve personally seen in a very long time.
Garbark’s colors pair beautifully with Lee’s art. Garbark often masterfully contrasts between the cold blues and the bold, bright reds to fit the feeling of Lees’ terrifying, poignant tale. Whenever vomit, blood, or spit takes place in the panels, the colors look highly saturated and bright which elevate the feeling of discomfort when looking at these moments. Garbark’s colors always direct the reader’s eye effectively to the most important thing in each panel. Brilliant work from Garbark.
Shawn Lee’s lettering is a sight to behold. It both fits the art style and the writing’s eerie mood, but it also goes out of its way to present the reader with a great lettering style that, on its own, could be dissected for hours. The placement of the word balloons guides the reader’s eye well. The lowercase font pairs well with Ryan Lee’s art, and some of the sound effects leap out the page beautifully. Each sound effect has a different style and font, making the reading experience all the more interesting, engaging, and fun.
Mountainhead Vol. 1 will keep you awake at night for two main reasons. Firstly, it is an awfully terrifying comic that constantly keeps you on your toes. Secondly, the work by all the creators involved is so masterfully done; you can’t help but think about all the ingenious ways in which these creators made you feel so incredibly nervous and frightened when reading it.
The first volume hits local comic book shops on January 13th, with the final order due December 21st. Do yourself a favor and please pre-order or pick up this trade paperback.