Initially credited to Darren Lynn Bousman, a writer/director in the Saw franchise, Radical Comics’ six-part mini-series Abattoir is a horror comic that lets you know exactly where it’s going by opening up on a bloody slaughter at a child’s birthday party. A hired clown’s fingers get sliced off with a weed eater, a burly neighbor gets a butcher knife across the mouth, the party’s birthday boy is found dead and bleeding at the foot of his rampaging father. Makes those birthday spankings look pretty innocuous, huh?
Once we get past this attention-grabbing opener, the scene shifts weeks later to Richard Ashwalt, an “almost former cop,” family man and would-be real estate salesman stuck with unloading the house where the birthday slayings took place. Ashwalt is feeling pressure by his boss, not to mention his nagging wife, to sell the place, but he’s initially reluctant to immediately do so when a creepy geezer aptly named Jebediah Crone shows up wanting to buy the splatter flaked domicile for fifteen per cent above asking price. Plagued by grisly dreams and visions of the murders, Richard is told the credulity straining ghost story of a boogeyman who buys up properties where someone has recently died — though to what nefarious purpose the storyteller can’t say. Based on the series’ title, though, you know the reason’s gotta be nasty.
A decent set-up, even if you don’t quite buy the real estate urban legend. As fleshed out by scripters Rob Levin and Troy Peters, the series’ protagonist is both flawed and sympathetic enough to make a believable witness/victim of the horrors still to come. Though there are hints that there’s a history which explains his strained relationship with his wife, he’s also shown in a caring interaction with his young daughter Claire. Given that this book opened on another seeming caring father, though, we can’t help wondering just how much Richard is gonna be effected by his involvement with Mr. Crone — especially after another character quotes the “all work and no play” adage made infamous in The Shining.
Abattoir is set in the eighties, and Bing Cansino’s painted art does a strong job conveying the era’s slasher movie vibe. It’s dark, of course, though there are some moments that you don’t want to see too clearly, and while most of the characters have the visual blandness of so many actors in low-budget pictures of the era, Cansino’s Crone is a suitably malevolent boogeyman — with more than a trace of the Cryptkeeper in him. The final panel at the end of ish one, showing him sitting at the table with Ashwalt’s puzzle-building daughter definitely gets the reader’s attention. Kids in Peril may be the easiest trick in the horror story playbook, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Just ask Danny Torrance.