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Comic Review: The Book
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The Book coverThe Book
Written by Erik Hendrix and Michael David Nelson
Art by Amanda Rachels
Colors by Gavin Michelli
Letters by Erik Hendrix
Edited by Amanda Hendrix
Arcana Comics
Release Date: December 2012
Cover Price: $14.95

The Book follows a group of student tourists in Italy who hunt down a DIY travel guide. When they find the book in a small café, one of the tourists discovers that it was stuffed with several pages of instructional text on an ancient ritual called Sanctus Letum, the Holy Death. This ritual allows someone to die, take a sneak-peek at what lies beyond, and come back to life. These ritual pages draw the tourists into the ritual spot of a death cult that believes that Lazarus, from the Bible, witnessed a few things before he was resurrected. Let the satanic rituals, demonic possessions, and gnarly death-making commence!

Creators Erik Hendrix and Michael David Nelson melded their own separate story ideas together to form The Book. Hendrix wanted to write a story about people killing themselves to see what’s in the afterlife. Nelson was toying with the idea of travelers hunting down collaborative, “off the grid” travel guides. The resulting story is a compelling twist on the old possession storyline. The Book is an inverse ghost story where the living want to explore the afterlife and, as a result, bring a little afterlife back with them. It’s a ritualistic twist on the movie Flatliners.

The notion of a DIY travel guide is a fascinating concept that enriches an otherwise typical possession story. The moment the travel guide concept makes its entrance in the story, I wanted one of my own. How sick would it be to find a travel book that was passed down and amended by other like-minded, off the beaten path travelers? If this travel guide idea isn’t based on something real, then it needs to happen.

The Book is not, however, a seamless fusion of the creators’ separate ideas. The merger feels strained at times. The story relies on a series of convenient events to make it work. The travelling group just happens to discover a travel guide that just happens to be stuffed with the ritual pages by a cult-member on the run. They follow the guide to a church where the coincidences just go crazy. I won’t spoil the story with further details, but let’s just say that it’s a stretch. What’s appreciated is the gratuitous violence and unexpected deaths. No character is safe in The Book. If you lust for the splatter, you’ll find the amount of death and mayhem to be delightfully plentiful.

Amanda Rachels’ artwork has a dark, Disney look. The line work is expressive and cartoony, but the coloring darkens the mood to better match the storyline. The colors and backgrounds are also textured to give the comic a stylized, hand-painted appearance, which complements the tone of the comic.

Overall, the artwork is good, but the lettering near the end of the book nearly kills the whole thing. The unleashed super-demon speaks in translucent word balloons with red text. The effect is amazingly cool. Once. However, when this demon turns out to be a chatty little bitch, the word balloons quickly become the most annoying gimmick ever. The flow of the story comes to a grinding halt at the ending as you are forced to excavate the demon’s lines. If I was reading the print version, that would be the point where I rage-shred The Book, drizzle the remains with molten bacon fat, and feed it all to wild raccoons for brunch. Fortunately, I read a digital version on the iPad, which tends to dampen my nerd-tantrums with its monetary consequences. After exercising some patience, I actually enjoyed the ending.

Fans of horror comics will find much to love about The Book. As a casual fan of horror, I found the story to be an entertaining read with the notable exception of the demon-speak. I suspect some readers may take issue with The Book‘s highly coincidental story crutches. However, the fascinating concepts, wide cast of characters, and unexpected twists should atone for The Book’s plotting sins.

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