Daphne Byrne #1
Written by: Laura Marks, Joe Hill
Art by: Kelley Jones, Dan McDaid
Cover Art: Piotr Jablonski
In the gas lit splendor of late 19th-century New York, rage builds inside 14-year-old Daphne. The sudden death of her father has left her alone with her irresponsible, grief-stricken mother-who becomes easy prey for a group of occultists promising to contact her dead husband. While fighting to disentangle her mother from these charlatans, Daphne begins to sense a strange, insidious presence in her own body…an entity with unspeakable appetites. What does “Brother” want? And could she even stop him if she tried?
Writer Laura Marks (TV’s Ray Donovan, The Expanse, and The Good Fight) and horror-art legend Kelley Jones (The Sandman, Batman: Red Rain) join forces to unleash spirits from beyond into the Hill House Comics line!
Daphne Byrne is part of the first wave of horror comics from Joe Hill’s Hill House Comics label. It’s creepy from cover to cover, and while there is very little pay off in the pages of the first issue, there is build up aplenty.
As one might expect from a horror story, there’s lots of macabre images throughout, and the artists cleverly make this compliment some of the weaknesses of their art. Sure, there’s lots of black in the book, but to make this into deep shadows across faces and backgrounds is a great touch, perfect for the atmosphere of the book. Even the limits of background characters are exploited here, as the girls taunting our heroine from afar appear to be faceless dolls, or shrieking caricatures of the real people we see in the foreground. This takes what may look like an artistic shortcut in any other book, and makes it a part of the building terror.
And building terror is what this issue is all about. The story lays the rather mundane backdrop, builds a world around that, and then things start to go wrong. There’s not much pay off in these pages, but expecting that is missing the point of horror. Showing a scary looking zombie on page one isn’t frightening, building up perfectly normal world just so the reader can watch it slowly fall apart is. And that’s what’s happening here.
I suppose horror comics have a limited audience, just like horror films, so their market is already limited. But if you’re interested at all in a good thrill, I don’t think it gets much better than this, at least in the comics industry. The art is as subtle as the story, and you’re going to have to commit to the story for any pay off, but this first issue clearly reveals that Daphne Byrne is in masterful hands.
The Slow Simmer
Expecting a first issue of any horror series to be frightening is missing the point, but there's some fantastic build up here, and the promise of a big payoff.