There’s not a more idyllic setting found in this world than a farm. A farm represents an escape from the human cacophony associated with life in the big city. It also projects an image of what is virtuous and innocent, especially for Americans. It is no wonder that comic’s greatest hero, Superman, grew up on one. A farm is the last place you’d expect to act as a setting for a horror story. However, in Monkeybrain Comics’ new four issue mini-series, “The Remains”, it does and it makes for an especially effective horror story at that.
Written by Cullen Bunn, the story takes place forty years ago and revolves around a young girl named Birdie whose peaceful existence (along with her younger sister Abigail’s ) is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger named Cole Jensen. Her father (who is suffering from rheumatism of the hands, as well as tending to Birdie’s pregnant mother) needs help running the family farm and Jensen inquires about a position for the end of summer. Much to Birdie’s apprehension, her father decides to hire Jensen and sets him up with room and board in a nearby tool-shed. Jensen’s ominous presence, however, unnerves Birdie and it’s not long before that presence has an effect on the farm itself. There’s a terrifying scene in issue one where Birdie and Abigail uses the family dog, Jerry Lee to kill off the rats plaguing the barn, only to find that the rodents are not so easily dispatched. Even more unnerving is Jensen’s assurances to Birdie that she will come to like him “just as much as he likes her”.
What I love about this book is the relationship between the Birdie and Jensen. It reminds me of that classic movie, “Night of the Hunter” in the way a child has to relate to and deal with a dark and threatening presence in their life. The difference between Jensen and actor Robert Mitchum’s killer preacher character is that we are unsure whether Jensen is actually a villain. Determining Jensen’s true agenda is the real source of tension in the story and writer Bunn gives us just enough information to keep us interested but not enough to give the game away.
The real star of this book, however, is the artwork (pencilled and inked by A.C. Zumidio and colored by her husband, Carlos Nicolas Zumidio ). The panel layouts and use of blacks give a suspenseful effect, especially in the first issue’s “dancing rats” scene. And there is nothing “monochromatic” about the vibrant colors of this book and the subtle tones depicting both farm life (in warm and sunlit hues) and the ominous events (in muted blues, greens, and greys) with a sure hand. This is one title that is just begging for digital download, to fully appreciate its flawless look.
I was so taken with issue 2 that I immediately got my hands on issue 1, so that I could review both. Give me a book like this over any of Marvel’s X-titles or DC’s new 52 nonsense. Thanks to writer Bunn and the Zumidios for putting the “creative” back in creator.
5 out of 5
Check out some pages from issue two: