Worryingly Scary: Reviewing Dark Horse Comics’ ‘Survival’ #1

Welcome to the table,

I’ve always been a fan of stories that transition from the seemingly mundane into the strange, with the introduction of a single element. Sure, magic worlds full of wizards and dragons are great, but the normal day-to-day that gets that one bit of reality-altering weirdness that makes the whole thing feel strange and supernatural really pulls me in and makes me want to explore a story more. True Detective does this really well, as does The Outsider. Dark Horse’s Survival #1 seemed to be going in that direction, but the road got a little bumpy as it went along.

The book gets off to an interesting start with the news that there has been some kind of Russian event that has caused the sky to rain ash and reports of a storm that has rolled into Alaska grounding aircraft and disrupting technology. All of this takes place across a single page of black panels on the opening page of the comic and honestly seems to be setting up for some big reveals down the road. I instantly started to get The Strain vibes as a very similar thing happened in those novels.

Quickly after the narration of world events, we are then introduced to some young adults or older teens, the dress and mode of transportation leave it up to the reader to make that call, who are investigating a downed plane where they come across a fairly gruesome site.

A muscular tattooed man with clawed hands is pumping his blood into (or out of), a suspended bloody body.

At this point, I was really excited about what potential strangeness lay in store for me.

After some horror goes down, as horror is wont to do, the focus of the story switches up and we are introduced to Emma Reed, who is heading back to her hometown in Alaska where she is attending a family reunion/camping/meet-up of military-adjacent folks who are allegedly “the most elite branches of the US military, from Vietnam to now.”

Now, dear reader, I’m around the military 95% of the time. It’s the nature of the life I lead and the things I do. I love the military. I’m also an avid watcher of the world around us. Since the late 90’s, I have been slightly worried about private gatherings of people with military paraphernalia, ammunition, and automatic weapons. Between school shootings, insurrections, and masked-up men on marches who wave about machine guns, the whole “gun show” scene makes me really nervous. It always feels like a powder keg that could go off because someone did not like the look of someone else.

The place Emma (the protagonist of this story if you have lost the thread by now because I have accidentally upset you) meets her father and his friends is a place that’s very much like places I found myself when I was a kid. On more occasions than I care to count, I was dragged to one of these deep off-the-beaten-path gatherings of well-armed people with tables and tents, swapping tools and holsters, and guns and ammo, and stories of secret cabals of global powers that sound about as logical as Bat-Boy marries the Daughter of Bigfoot.

Countless nights I laid awake in a sleeping bag worried about the looming threat of nuclear death predicted by Nostradamus as interpreted by a one-eyed seven-fingered octogenarian named “Lucky” or “Dirty Pete” or some such.

In the story, things go sideways fairly quickly and the clawed dude and his strange friends launch an attack on the “gun show” group setting off a firefight and causing quite a bit of chaos. It’s cool, but there are just moments when panels with guys in Confederate flag shirts or children with tons of guns reads as uncomfortable to me and I can’t tell if the creators are lampooning or idolizing that section of the culture.

I really liked the way this book started. The dialog feels a little off in places but that could be intentional by the writer, who may just be trying to make certain characters feel slightly off or maybe as if they are trying too hard. The art is loose and sometimes frantic but there are some really solid standout moments. All in all the story is interesting enough I want to know what happens next but I would be lying to you if I was not worried where this was all going.

There is a moment where a child is handing out weapons to some of the guys at the gathering as things start to hit the fan. The kid looks to be maybe 12 years old. In a world where school shootings seem all too commonplace a child armed with four or more guns feels a little tone-deaf.

If this was a story of the actual active-duty military going up against strange wolf-day-walking-clawed dudes, I would be 100% here for it.

If it was a town of everyday people going up against some supernatural threat, I would be 100% into it.

Wolf-day-walking-clawed-guys versus a Boy Scout troop and their scout leaders, sure, that could be fun as hell!

Something about this book scares me, and it’s not the clawed monsters. There is an undertone throughout that feels a little too “ripped from the headlines” familiar, in a way that pulls me out of the story and makes me worry that the survivalists are going to end up being more evil and hate-filled than the clawed creatures. It’s such a cool setup that I hope I’m wrong.

I will definitely be reading the next issue, but I will be doing so with a bit of worry about what the pages are going to contain.

Survival is written by Sean Lewis and lettered by Ed Dukeshire, with illustrations and colors by Bryndon Everett, and additional colors by Natalie Barahone. The cover to issue one was done by Tomm Coker and really struck a tone for me that would have had me pick it up off the shelf if I saw it in a shop and at least investigated what was going on within the pages.

Until next time, this was a really hard review to write because I want to be honest with you all. I really hope the book does not go the way it could potentially go. I really hope I’m just exhausted by the news cycles and the next chapter of this story really does just end up in a cool 30 Days of Night kind of space where the monsters are more frightening than the mass shooters.

Welcome to the table, I’ve always been a fan of stories that transition from the seemingly mundane into the strange,COMICONRead More

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