The Man in the Kitty Coat blends horror and suspense to present an entertaining story for readers who like their comics more dark than fluffy. It opens with a parent’s worst nightmare: a child terminally ill with an untreatable, unknown disease, and the plot refuses to get lighter as Joe begins digging for any evidence about The Phoenix Virus’ origins. The storyline isn’t depressing despite the heavy focus at the core; it feels shocking, scary, creepy, and weird, but never truly sad. I get the sense that The Man in the Kitty Coat will become as much about Joe’s need to resolve his feelings about his parents’ deaths as the virus, and the titular man, who never appears in the flesh in this issue, probably plays a bigger role in our hero’s past than it first appears.
Joe is presented as a man of color, and he clearly possesses skills, intelligence, and strength, which is a positive change from some media presentations. He has healthy relationships with his uncle and his parents’ former co-workers at the police station, and Joe obviously is a valued member of his small community. So far, the other characters look white, but a non-white protagonist may be a big draw for some readers.
The artwork for The Man in the Kitty Coat reflects the classic horror movie aspects of the plot with strong lines and sharp blacks and whites. While I appreciate color comics, I don’t know if the story would have been as creepy if the world hadn’t been shadowed in darkness and highlighted in harsh whites.
The first issue of The Man in the Kitty Coat is nearly perfect, because the introductions and action of the plot blend together almost seamlessly. My only minor complaint is that twenty-plus pages left me wanting more. What is “the pit” Joe reference as he heads off into the night? How did Haley Kline’s bizarre case begin? What do her carvings and strange proclamations mean? I guess we’ll just have to wait for answers in the next issues. I expect that Watkins and Steward will deliver something deliciously scary.
4.5 Eerie Black Veins out of 5