Long before Freddy Krueger came to Elm Street, before Michael Myers came home, or Jason took Manhattan, one horror icon haunted the dreams of people across the nation: the Headless Horseman, and the legend is returning in Headless, a new series from Scout Comics.
In the hundred plus years the horror legend has existed, he’s become some people’s absolute favorite ghastly villain. So a comic about him has a lot to live up to. Happily, Scout’s venture into the world of Washington Irving’s monster is a worthy title, even without the preconceived adoration of those Headless HorseStans, and if horror comics mean anything at all to you, it’s worth the cover price.
A Sleepy Town, A Hollow Job
We begin at a crime scene in Salem, Massachusetts, where rookie cop Rick Winter has just stumbled into a gruesome crime scene. Rick just transferred from a rural community, a fact his condescending fellow officers won’t let him forget, and is having no luck to adjusting to life, much less police work, in Salem. The Sheriff ushers Rick out of the crime swiftly, and within the few moments he’s away, the Salem cops have finished their “investigation.” Of course, what Rick doesn’t know is that they’ve already located the culprit of the crime: an invisible demon that the cops exorcise. Rick heads home from his shift confused, angry, and completely unaware of the supernatural turn his career path has taken.
Also adjusting to Salem is Rick’s brother, Chris. Not only will Chris have to deal with strange, demonic forces intimately involved with his new life, he’ll also have to tackle being a teen in the 80s. And as several horror franchises have gone out of their way to prove recently, that’s pretty much a death sentence. Still, Chris has a loyal group of new geek pals by his side, and it appears he’ll need them soon. By the end of this issue, we’ll see that the Winter brothers are facing a threat that stretches back to the Knights Templar, and down into the depths of Hell.
Writer Alexander Banchita starts the story in blood, with our main character standing over two brutalized teenagers. Not only does this scene confirm we’re in for some drive-in slasher fun, it kicks our tale off with a punch to the nerves, which is a great way to tell a horror story. From there, we’re introduced to a deep lore that Banchita has buried under Salem, with interesting lead characters and a big bad who’s already a horror legend. The story in Headless #1 is sure to have you excited for this this plot unfold, and find out the Winters’ part in it, not to mention see a new take on a fantastic baddie.
One critique of Banchita’s writing is that the dialogue is pretty on-the-nose. A lot of it felt expositional, like the characters were explaining their backstories to the reader instead of talking with each other. Still, that’s hard to avoid in an introductory issue, and though Banchita trips up a bit in this field, he’s effectively gotten on course to run.
Robert Ahmad will definitely not disappoint anyone coming to Headless for the art. Ahmad’s got a great eye for minute facial details, so even though his style is minimalistic, there’s plenty of variety in character design. Still, Ahmad can separate himself from humans long enough to put a very effective demon on to the page. Fans of either Mike Mignola or Todd McFarlane will find something to love in Headless. As for its colors, it might have been better had Ahmad used some of the watercolors that he frequently posts to Twitter, but the simple pinks and blues of the world do the job well enough. They give it a retro vibe, and any lack of diversity in the tones gets made up for in shading and pencils.
Headless #1 is a strong start to an interesting series. Fans of It, Stranger Things, or even just the X-Files will no doubt come to adore it, but there’s plenty to love for the average teen-slasher fan as well. The comic does a great job of grounding the series so that we know enough of what’s going on, but keeping back elements of a larger mystery at play. Hopefully the creative team will keep that flow of information going, revealing more about the evil in the town and its inhabitants, who may or may not have a different evil within themselves. You can find Scout Comics’ Headless #1 at your local comic book store on August 28th, and we highly recommend that you do. Headless will appeal to any horror fan with a brain…and maybe some without theirs.
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