Writer Daniel Kraus and artist Chris Shehan return with the second chapter of their slow-burn horror series in “The Autumnal” #2. This issue solidifies this series’s status as a slower, more character-driven horror tale with an issue that focuses more on the two protagonists’ relationship to this strange new setting – as well as the weird mystery surrounding this quaint, quiet town. While the stellar visuals are on hand to deliver a couple of good false scares, it is abundantly clear that this is a comic for patient readers who like their horror delivered in steady bites rather than all at once.
“After missing the funeral of her estranged mother, Kat and her daughter, Sybil, hope to fit into the quaint town of Comfort Notch. But the town’s obscure history and strange customs make it a struggle, leading to a shocking confrontation.”
Writing & Plot
With his work on “The Autumnal” thus far, writer Daniel Kraus takes his time to ground this supernatural creepfest in the story of a single mother, her daughter, and their turbulent existence. Grounding a horror story in familial drama centers the audience’s attention on the experiences of the human characters, and when these characters are written in a realistic and relatable manner, it subtly forces empathy for them. This translates into a heightened sense of fear and tension when watching unexplainable and horrific things start happening to these same people. The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Hereditary, and many other great horror tales have used this tactic to outstanding effect. Kat and Sybil, our mother-daughter duo in “Autumnal,” are fantastically unique characters that I loved reading in the first issue and continue to do so in this one. Their relationship and their personalities feel genuine, and this makes their mysterious backstory as well as the slowly creeping horror they begin to experience all the more enthralling. This issue takes its time to instill the relationship between the main pair and the peaceful but secretive town of Comfort Notch. This issue cements this comic series as a slow-paced mystery of a horror story, where most of the “horror” aspect comes in the form of its unsettling atmosphere and resolve to give the audience almost nothing about what is happening here. The horror elements of this comic are intoxicating, making the wait for the next chapter of this mystery a torturous one.
That oppressive atmosphere that “The Autumnal” #2 carries that I mentioned earlier is mostly the product of Chris Shehan and Jason Wordie. Shehan’s pencils bring out the humanity in every character that appears on panel, but especially succeeds in humanizing Kat and Sybil. His sense of panel direction also offers up a couple of great false scares that do occur in this issue, and they don’t come across as cheap. This comic frames the two protagonists as being alone in uncharted waters, both in terms of the town and strange circumstances of Kat’s mother’s death (and life, for that matter). Shehan constantly paints a focus just on these two characters, going to great lengths to make everything else seem strange and alien. The atmosphere is largely cultivated by Jason Wordie’s colors, who makes this comic feel like a haunted vision of its titular season. Every page looks like a cool autumn evening, but with an almost inexplicable dash of something not quite right in the air. How this effect is achieved in a comic is astounding on its own. The lettering from Jim Campbell is a classical and refined style, which still uses enough variation in its font to sell the tone of whichever character is speaking. From the visual angle, this comic is brilliant in terms of both fidelity and atmosphere.
“The Autumnal” #2 is a brilliant character-driven chapter that sells this comic as a slow-burn horror experience while maintaining a uniquely unnerving atmosphere. Daniel Kraus’s script is a thoughtful exploration of a struggling but happy mother-daughter relationship being exposed to strange circumstances both realistic and supernatural. The visuals of Chris Shehan and Jason Wordie are beautifully haunting, with detailed character animations and fantastic directing sensibilities. If this series can keep up its momentum, “The Autumnal” has the potential to become a new horror classic. Be sure to pick up this 2nd issue when it hits shelves at your local comic shop on 10/28!