From acclaimed writer James Tynion IV (Something is Killing the Children, Detective Comics) and artist Michael Avon Oeming (Powers, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye) comes an intriguing and creepy love letter to classic paranormal encounter stories in Blue Book #1. Featuring Aditya Bidikar on letters and a backup story drawn by the legendary Klaus Janson, Blue Book #1 is a stellar start to this paranormal thriller from Dark Horse Comics and Tynion’s own Tiny Onion Studios. With a script that focuses on bringing the reader into the setting of these strange encounters and gorgeous, moody art from Oeming, this opening issue is a gem of genre-work and a must-read for fans of all manner of horror storytelling.
“In this debut issue, Tynion presents what he calls his “True Weird” stories. Tales of ordinary people encountering the strange and the impossible. Teaming with artist Michael Avon Oeming, they retell some of the most popular UFO and alien encounter accounts starting with the infamous Betty and Barney Hill abduction–the widely publicized and very first abduction that went on to shape and influence all future encounter stories.”
Writing & Plot
James Tynion IV calls upon the terror of a historical encounter with his script for Blue Book #1. This opening chapter tells the start of the tale of Betty and Barney Hill, the Civil Rights activists who were infamously known for having been – supposedly – abducted by extraterrestrials. Every alien abduction story since the 1961 incident, both fictional and anecdotal, has been modeled in some way by this event. Tynion approaches this tale with the drama of a classic television recounting, but combined with his own seasoned style as a horror comics writer. This comic sees use of expository blurbs to give background info and context about our two lead characters. While info-dumps like this are often frowned upon in the comics medium, they fit in here perfectly. Tynion conveys the feeling of this story being an especially intense dramatization – the kind of thing that you’d catch on the Discovery channel in the middle of the day or late at night. This comic took me back to the feeling of being enthralled and unnerved by these kinds of abduction stories as a kid. Tynion’s writing outside of the narration is subdued, with minimal dialogue between Betty and Barney. What dialogue is there feels naturalistic and sharp, with an increasing sense of urgency as the couple becomes more concerned by what is following them through the sky. This approach continues into the backup story, a recounting of some unusual sights in and around Coney Island in the 1920’s. Being a gifted horror writer who understands comics, Tynion scripts many wordless panels where the visuals do all the talking. This first chapter of Blue Book is tightly scripted and suitably intense due to James Tynion’s horror-writing talents.
An unsettling “weird-true” horror comic needs equally unsettling visuals, and that’s where the unmistakable style of Michael Avon Oeming comes into play. The Cave Carson artist brings the strange, UFO-based events of that night in 1961 to life with a beautiful yet chilling visual aesthetic. Oeming’s ever-distinct character designs capture the humanity and growing terror on the Hill couple’s faces as they are pursued. Oeming’s constantly tense mood takes a couple sharp turns into the outright menacing, making for some panels that will stay in my mind for some time to come. His color choices – a steady background of deep blues, blacks, and pale white lighting – completes this visual journey with an atmosphere that wraps readers up in its setting. His sequential direction keeps the tense while flowing at an even pace. Close-up shots of the Hill’s as they drive and observe the thing chasing them are followed by wide-shot panels of the peaceful Northeastern setting turned sinister by the craft floating through the night sky. Klaus Janson’s art on the backup story is just as impressive, but in a different manner. His heavily inked black and white imagery creates a vision of Coney Island that feels like a setting from an ancient myth. Janson’s work here makes Tynion’s narration and dialogue feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone. This backup story shows that the goal of Blue Book isn’t necessarily just to terrify – but to inspire wonder and curiosity in the unusual. Aditya Bidikar finishes the book off with his expertly handled lettering. His fonts are easy to read and shift naturally with the tone of dialogue. The narration text mimics a typewriter font, and the actual style of the dialogue lettering has a distinctly classic appearance. This approach furthers the aesthetic of decades past, perfecting an already outstanding visual experience.
Blue Book #1 is a brilliantly creepy and unique comic in a genre seldom utilized in the comics medium. James Tynion IV pens a script that captures the specific feel of a great TV dramatization, but with the tension of a true thriller. The visuals from Michael Avon Oeming in the main story and Klaus Janson in the backup are utterly stunning and will leave a lasting impression on unsuspecting readers. Be sure to grab this new release when it hits shelves on February 22nd!