Review: AfterShock Kicks Off New Prestige Format With ‘Piecemeal’ One-Shot
by Brendan M. Allen
‘Five high school kids, soon to say goodbye to each other and to the lives they have known, enter the Nightmare House, the source of local legend and superstition. What they discover within the crumbling old house fills them with terror – a human brain, floating in a jar of murky liquid. Soon, the teens find themselves stalked by a vicious killer, a murderer intent on building itself a new body. Piece by piece.’
Everyone remembers the place. In my neighborhood, it was a rundown little two story house on my walk to school everyday. It was the spot where we met up to fight, drink, smoke, and gamble, where all kinds of other questionable activity took place at all hours of the day and night. Looking back, I’m actually surprised we never got stabbed or anything.
Cullen Bunn takes the familiarity of these local haunts, throws in an actual psychopath hellbent on immortality, and lets the chips fall. Five kids, all about to leave high school and take off on their own separate paths, are having one last go. At the local haunted house, one of them finds a brain in a jar. Thoroughly creeped out, they take off, but one of them heads back to the house in the middle of the night to retrieve the jar and take it home, as you do.
That all sounds weird enough, but it really gets there when Jamie’s grandpa recognizes the brain and starts telling stories.
This new AfterShock ‘prestige format’ one-shot is perfect for this exact type of story. Twenty four pages isn’t enough, and a full graphic novel would be too long. Forty eight is just enough to get in, tell the story, and get out. The events take place over just a couple days, and you don’t have to know every character’s back story and motivation in order to be creeped the hell out by what’s going down.
Art by Szymon Kudranski fits the late eighties cinematic feel. Character designs are fantastic. Without having a ton of space for exposition in the script, Kudranski has to do some of the heavy lifting, creating visual backstories for these kids, and it works. You knew these kids. Jock, burnout, lovers, and the dreamer.
Lighting is all dark and moody, but the heavy blues and purples don’t overtake the details. It’s a really nice balance. And then when the shit hits the fan, Kudranski pulls out some really slick tricks to easily differentiate between dual timelines that are taking place simultaneously on the same page.
Piecemeal is a brilliant choice to kick off this new AfterShock format. If this first entry is any indication of what’s to come with the rest of the line, readers are in for a treat.
Piecemeal One-Shot, AfterShock Comics, 09 December 2020. Written by Cullen Bunn, art/color by Szymon Kudranski, letters by Marshall Dillon.
Five high school kids, soon to say goodbye to each other and to the lives they have known, enter the Nightmare House, the source of local legend and superstition. Soon, the teens find themselves stalked by a vicious killer, a murderer intent on building itself a new body. Piece by piece