Horror fans have come to recognize the name John Carpenter as a signature of quality in the horror genre, and that standard holds true with John Carpenter’s Asylum, the new comic series from Storm King Comics. Created by Carpenter, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Sandy King, Asylum is written by Bruce Jones and features the artwork of Leonardo Manco, the coloring talents of Kinsun Loh, and the lettering skills of Janice Chiang. Asylum is a dark, brooding, and beautiful book that is brimming with the presence of the true, originalevil itself.
Carpenter ends Issue #2 of Asylum with a personal message to fans that states that most of his films ” . . . have been, in one way or another, about evil” and describes how Asylum continues this exploration by offering fans and ongoing tale “about the ultimate evil, about Lucifer on Earth.” From the opening pages, Asylum is a series that has an atmosphere that nearly suffocates (a good thing when it comes to bleak, hellish horror tales) the reader with its feeling of insidious evil. Similar to the hopeless feel of the morally and physically decaying city in David Fincher’s Se7en, the city of Los Angeles is depicted in Asylum as an urban Hell, lit by the fiery haze of California’s wildfires, courtesy of the steaming Santa Ana winds. The story follows an excommunicated priest named Beckett and a conflicted detective named Duran as they track a demon-possessed man named Jackson through the city of angels, following his trail of violence and violation. Beckett, despite struggling with his faith, has been given the gift of discernment by God [the ability to distinguish good from evil and truth from false (mostly) in the spiritual realm, as well as the ability to take a demon inside one’s self in order to defeat it] and must attempt to use it to help the beast-like Jackson and stop his vicious and bloody spree.
Jones’ script is a juicy one, written with a sadistic sense of action-packed glee that is tempered and balanced by the heavy, nihilistic nature of the story. The characters created by Carpenter, Griffith, and King are definitely tangible ones, feeling like genuinely real people who have been broken and scarred by the sin-filled world around them. Fans of Hellblazer and other supernatural crime noir tales will certainly be drawn to the broken priest Beckett, and those who have enjoyed the gripping, demonic-based horror of films like The Exorcist and Fallen will eat this comic series up and ask for seconds.
The artwork in Asylum is absolutely gorgeous. Manco has a smooth and cutting-edge feel to his style and paired with colorist Kinsun Loh, the artwork becomes unbelievably powerful, featuring the shadows and darkness that the demons demand while still excelling at the vibrant colors of the urban environment during the burn of fire season. Janice Chiang’s lettering work must also be mentioned, as it truly ups the quality of the final product by several notches.
While I noted one or two “continuity errors,” like the panties that weren’t apparent on Jackson’s wife during the final page of Issue #1, but suddenly appeared during the start of Issue #2 (Maybe they’re demon-possessed panties?), but anything noticeable is extremely minor. The only real recommendation I could give as Asylum moves forward is to continue to feature those quieter, creepier moments that Manco and Loh seem to excel at in their splash pages. Whether portraying Beckett struggling against a sea of desperate spirits or Jackson towering over his latest victims, these moments are often even more scary than the action-based scenes in the book.
FINAL SCORE: 4 Mortal Sins out of 5
You can find out more about John Carpenter’s Asylum on Facebook, on Twitter, or the official Storm King Productions website. You can also listen to Asylum creator and editor Sandy King discuss her comic series and more on this recently recorded episode of The Fanboy Scoop – Week in Review podcast.
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers. Be sure to keep walking the straight and narrow path, my fellow comic book sinners!
’Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer