Rogue Planet Sci-Fi Horror Comic Review

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

In his seminal novel Dune, author Frank Herbert writes, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer”. This idea, that fear steals and kills who we are, is taken to a terrifying new level in the space horror comic Rogue Planet (2020) where the fears of our main characters literally come to life and hunt them down in a strange alien landscape. Though the story shackles itself within its sci-fi horror conventions, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise or H.P. Lovecraft then you will probably still have a good time with this one. 

Rogue planet horror comic cover
Rogue Planet Horror Comic Book Cover

In a faraway galaxy there is a “rogue” planet (i.e. one not bound to any planetary system or star) where aliens worship a grotesque and horrifying elder god. The comic wastes no time introducing us to some of its main elements, namely the towering fleshy monument of the god and the lengths the inhabitants will go through to appease its bloodlust. We see an alien father sacrifice his own son in front of the multi-eyed obelisk, which really helps set the dark and dangerous tone that runs throughout the story.

After this jarring opening we cut to the salvage ship Cortes, where the crew is just beginning to wake from hyper-sleep. They’ve found a distress signal and followed it to the unknown world, hoping to loot whatever treasures they may find. However, upon discovering a massive ship graveyard they begin to feel something is amiss. This uneasy feeling quickly turns to outright terror as they are attacked by a massive tentacled monster, and they spend the rest of the comic fighting for their lives against numerous bizarre and deadly enemies.

alien art from Rogue Planet horror comic
The god of Rogue Planet demands sacrifice

No spoilers here, but the Rogue Planet comic makes it clear pretty early on that none of the crew are safe from the planetary nightmares they face. While this ramps up the stakes and tension, it would have been even more effective if we cared more for our main characters. We do get scenes of expository banter that lend layers to their personas, but for the most part they remain static archetypes typical of the sci-fi horror genre. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it adds to the feeling of “been there, done that” that permeates the story. 

For a story about a ship following a distress signal to a hostile world, it plays out about like one would expect. The humans are placed in increasingly dangerous scenarios as the mysteries of the planet are slowly revealed. The aliens are all fairly nondescript, resembling a primitive tribe that has been intruded upon by foreigners. Following its cosmic horror roots the plot also dips into a baffling spirituality and mythos in its final act. True to the genre I was left wondering what I’d just read, but unfortunately it didn’t have the unnerving impact that the best in cosmic horror carries.

Where Rogue Planet really shines is in its unsettling imagery, abundant violence, and eye-catching artwork. The chaotic evil force is presented in various ways: there’s a gargantuan, veiny, many-mouthed worm (reminiscent of Junji Ito’s manga Remina), a host of hollowed out astronauts with streaming tentacles where their heads should be, and even a larger, bonier version of the facehugger from Alien. All iterations are unnerving, and all represent new levels of dread and mayhem for our misfortuned crew. These creatures are particularly creepy thanks to the bold illustrations from Andy Macdonald and the shimmering colors from Nick Filardi.

alien spacemen art from Rogue Planet horror comic
The horrors of Rogue Planet

In terms of sci-fi horror, Rogue Planet doesn’t break any new ground. But the comic also manages to elevate above being a completely awful rip-off. There’s enough here – between the intriguing concepts and provocative artwork – to keep readers engaged in the story, even when they’re confused or find themselves feeling déjà vu. Though previous entries in the genre have tackled the same concepts with better results, the creepy images and stellar coloring make this one still worth a read. Just lower your expectations and you’ll have fun with it.

Rogue Planet is available now from Oni Press.

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The Autumnal – Folk Horror is Always in Season

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

Something strange is happening at Comfort Notch. Joining the ranks of other malevolent township imaginings such as Derry, Arkham, and Riverdale, this New England-inspired setting may fool you at first only to violently push you in a pile of leaves. Is it eco-horror or something more cosmic? Judging by the first three issues of The Autumnal (2020) we’re still early from raking in any answers, but that doesn’t stop the shadowy warnings from creeping into your subconscious.

Kat Somerville -donning a black leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses- is on her way to the principal’s office again to discuss another incident involving her daughter. Underneath the shades hides a black eye that gives a hint to her vices and proclivity toward violence. Her daughter, Sybil, shares that tendency (medically diagnosed as “Intermittent Explosive Disorder”). Kat – prior to the meeting- learns that her estranged mother has passed away, and that a mysterious party has bequeathed her the deceased’s home. So when things turn dicey at the principal’s office, they flee to Comfort Notch, New Hampshire leaving behind her daughters school and Rich Sybil’s absent father. Will this Fall-painted town offer the new beginning that she’s hoping for?

An overarching mother-daughter story is at the heart of The Autumnal, contrasting Kat’s protective relationship with Sybil against the – seemingly- non-existent one with her own mother. Surprisingly, Kat isn’t the only one with disdain for her matriarch Trudy, as the entire town appears to share the sentiment, resulting in an empty church for her funeral and the seemingly-chipper townsfolk to openly speak ill of her. Left with a house full of metaphorical ghosts and nothing but time to investigate, Kat will soon learn the reasons behind her mother’s questionable actions, and how she might be connected to the weirdness in this very uncomfortable town. 

Sometimes the best use of horror comes from evoking fear in the mundane. Look at how Hitchcock made you look twice before hopping in the shower, or how The Conjuring (2013) triggered audiences with a simple clap. Thanks to the artist, Chris Shehan, and colorist, Jim Campbell, The Autumnal somehow manages to transform fall foliage into an ominous void. Orange leaves clog the gutters between panels making for a menacing motif once we arrive at the enigmatic town. The townsfolk are constantly observed raking leaves and warning the characters to stay out of the piles leaving you to wonder what’s lurking beneath. Even worse, leaves are shown in more graphic imagery as part of strange deaths and odd funerary rituals. Nature aside though, the town itself is absolutely suspicious as we encounter haunting nursery rhymes and creepy infantile scribblings all hinting to something mysterious and sinister living in the trees.

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The Autumnal Horror Comic Cover Featuring Scary Girl with sticks

Part of the joy of reading The Autumnal comes from the storytelling of author Daniel Kraus, who received recent praise for his co-authorship on George A. Romero’s posthumous novel, The Living Dead (2020). Kraus has also worked with Guillermo Del Toro on the novel adaption of the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water (2017). Clearly influenced by the previously mentioned counterparts, Kraus is soaring through the literary world at lightspeed and with a range that leaves you wondering what he’ll possibly unleash next. However, based on Kraus repertoire, we’ve just touched the surface of The Autumnal and we are most likely in for a treat.

These first three issues introduce us to an intriguing and authentic mother-daughter duo that I’m eager to watch develop in the coming issues. There’s also much to be learned about the pastoral town and whatever diabolical secret it appears to be hiding. This is definitely a series that you’re not going to want to fall behind on. However, while you wait for the remaining issues maybe it’s best that you avoid frolicking through any of those enticing-looking piles of leaves

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