The Plot #1 is out this September from Vault Comics, and it’s a chilling horror story wrapped up in a compelling family drama, perfect for fans of Locke & Key and The Haunting of Hill House.
When his estranged brother and sister-in-law are murdered, Chase Blaine becomes guardian to his niece McKenzie and nephew Zach. The three move back to the 200-year-old Blaine family house in Cape Augusta, Maine, but something spooky and supernatural awaits them there. The series is by writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, and artist Joshua Hixson, with colors by Jordan Boyd and letters by Jim Campbell. The Plot will be the inaugural title for Nightfall, Vault’s new annual horror imprint.
Yes, this is another “dysfunctional family moves into an old, haunted mansion in the secluded corners of Maine” story, but there’s a reason this plot structure works so well. It allows creators to tell deep, complex, and – most importantly – uniquely personal stories. The Plot may share some key themes with the aforementioned Lock & Key and Hill House, but still it doesn’t feel like anything you’ve read before.
Like most successful horror stories, this is a very character-driven narrative. Daniel and Moreci understand that in order for the scares to be effective, the stakes have to feel real, and for the stakes to feel real, you have to be connected to the players. The Plot is ultimately a story about family, and the Blaine family feels like a family you know. It may even be your family. Their struggles and their conflicts are understandable. They have secrets in their past that they try to bury, things they’re ashamed of. You relate to them as a reader, because whose family doesn’t have secrets, and so when those secrets start crawling out of the woodwork, the dread hits home hard.
If you read Shanghai Red, you know that Josh Hixson is a star on the rise. His art is grim and atmospheric, especially when coupled with Boyd’s soft and muted color palette. This team is a match made in horror heaven. They capture small moments perfectly, like a hand reaching out to pick up the phone and pulling back at the last second. You can feel the tension here; horror lives in these moments. The Blaine family home comes alive through the art. If you ever heard the expression “the setting is a character in itself” and questioned what that means, The Plot is your answer. Every hallway oozes impending doom. Every shadow harbors a devastating secret. Reading this comic is a claustrophobic experience; you feel trapped within this house alongside these characters, unable to escape the terrors that lie within.
And that’s ultimately what The Plot is all about, the things we can’t escape. Our pasts. Our families. The monsters that live in the bog behind our ancestral family homes. It’s about having to face our demons, both literal and figurative, which is about the scariest thing any of us can do. Again, that’s what makes this comic so effective. It’s taking all of those abstract things we’re terrified of in real life and bringing them to life.
Jim Campbell is a letterer at the top of his game here. This is a first issue, so there’s a decent amount of exposition (no worries, Moreci and Daniel never make it feel heavy-handed), but the way Campbell letters the dialogue, you’re able to navigate the monologues and conversations with ease. This comic flies by, which is shocking when you consider all that happens. That’s largely thanks to Campbell’s handiwork. And then there are the horrifying sound effects, which Campbell kindly acknowledged were done by Hixson. Every “KRAK” is bone chilling; every “WHUD” hits with the impact of a brick to the head. Even everyday sounds like a phone ringing or a dog barking seem scarier here.
The Plot is comics’ next great horror masterpiece. It’s clearly a very personal project for all of the creators; you can feel the passion and care put into every panel. You have until this Monday (September 2) to order it at your local comic shop, so get on it!