From modern legends Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire) and Francesco Francavilla (Detective Comics, Black Beetle) comes a chilling opening chapter of comics horror. Night Of The Ghoul #1 is a perfect union of Golden Age and modern horror sensibilities. With a taut and carefully-planned script and stunningly atmospheric art, this is the start of something horrifyingly beautiful.
“A dazzling work of horror, intercutting between the present-day narrative and the story of a lost horror film. The writer and artist behind Batman: The Black Mirror reunite to shed light on a celluloid artifact once thought forever missing, perhaps with good reason..”
Writing & Plot
Scott Snyder’s skill with the horror genre reaches an arguable peak with Night Of The Ghoul #1. Both the careful world-building and tense, mounting terror are pulled off with thoughtful skill. There is little to no exposition in this comic. Every plot point is brought out by character interaction and in-panel events. The tense relationship between Forest and his son Orson is played out through fantastic father-son dialogue. The pair’s damaged relationship is never delved into in detail, but we’re given just enough to understand what may have happened. Snyder intentionally leaves much to our imagination, and to be delved into in later chapters.
The same goes for the core horror plot itself. Aside from the Inman’s meeting of a mysterious man in a retirement home, there’s another story in another time. This bit is the equivalent of a film’s “explaining the monster” trope, but done in a manner only comics can pull off. The tension mounts as the B-plot’s story intensifies and the events in the nursing home become more unsettling. Tonally, this comic feels like something that would be introduced by Vincent Price that is somehow also directed by Mike Flanagan. Every aspect of the horror story is kept with details close to the chest, though. This is an intense and deftly paced comic that isn’t quite a slow burn, but settles just enough to keep the reader mired in tension. This opening chapter is a potential career-best for Snyder.
There is no artist alive that could have been a better choice for Night Of The Ghoul #1 than Francesco Francavilla. His iconic style that has graced pulp covers and horror-tinged Batman stories blesses the interiors of this tribute to Golden Age tales of terror. Francavilla’s thick pencils and heavy inks craft an immersive and oppressive atmosphere. His character designs are deceptively simplistic but well-detailed. We can catch the nuances of complex emotion that every person feels; from regret to apprehension and – naturally – fear.
The comic takes place almost entirely at night in a poorly-lit building. As such, environments are cloaked in darkness and lit primarily by soft light reflections. Francavilla does impeccable work in this regard. Character features are lit by the blue screens of phones and computer monitors, or by the soft glow of dim fixtures. The coloring and framing Francavilla uses in the main plot is reminiscent of horror films from the 70’s and 80’s. The B-Plot (which I will not get into) is colored in a fine sepia tone due to its time period. This is a simple decision that Francavilla turns into a stroke of genius, setting an unsettling tone through even more of this comic. Francavilla’s monstert design is a shape that will stay in my mind for some time to come.
The lettering from Andworld Design is professionally legible while carrying a great deal of tone. The font changes subtly to mark the steady changes in the speakers’ tone. Every aspect of this comic’s visual storytelling is a masterful feat of atmospheric tension.
Night Of The Ghoul #1 is an incredible opening chapter of horror storytelling. Scott Snyder delivers one of his best scripts yet with a tense, carefully paced plot that guards its secrets close. Francesco Francavilla’s art is as stunning as it is unsettling, with excellent panel direction and tension-building design. If you’re a horror fan, you need to read Night Of The Ghoul #1 when it releases on Comixology on 10/19.