The Price is a one shot from up-and-coming publisher 215 Ink written by Glenn Arseneau with art by Allen Byrns. It tells the tale of Erin Wheeler who is lost deep in the backwoods of… well… somewhere, while she tries to make it to a meeting with a business partner. That plot right there is the ONLY normal part of this story. As Erin tries to get her bearings she attempts to ask for directions and runs across a town full of odd characters with questionable motives. This proves the theory that people in small towns everywhere are truly mad. After being encouraged by the locals to leave the area, there’s a car accident that sets everything off and things just start getting… weirder.
To tell any more would spoil the story, so instead we’ll focus on the presentation of the book itself. The book packs a lot of plot into 32 pages and while it’s always fun to have a one and done story, the ending leaves things very open to interpretation by the readers, but I found myself hoping to see more stories from this world and I feel like the creative team would like to show them to us.
Arseneau’s writing is straightforward, though the captions that appear throughout the story were the highlight for me as they set the creepy vibe and suggest that there’s more to this world than meets the eye. Once you reach the end, you realize just how right he is! The supporting cast remains rather one-dimensional, probably due to space constraints, but with rapid pacing of the story, we get what information we need and continue on. The dialog is solid, the stand out being Erin’s thoughts and feelings which really get the reader’s heart pounding.
I’m already a huge fan of Allen Byrns’s work (he contributed the cover for my comic book, Chambers) and this is the first time I’ve seen him do sequential art. His style is loose, gritty, and full of emotion and personality. While the panel backgrounds are minimal, the color palette is absolutely stunning. From page one, the colors set the tone and let you know that this is going to be one spooky book! Allen pulls something interesting from his artist toolkit and at times uses photo realism (and what appear to be actual photos) to add to the creepiness. You mainly notice it on the character’s noses, but at times mouths as well. It seems to pick up as the story goes along and adds itself to the list of weird happenings within the story that the reader is tracking.
Overall, had this creative team been given a few more pages to work with, this story would shine even brighter. Together they have really mastered creating a creepy and intense tone that doesn’t let up. If I had to suggest one thing that might improve future stories that Arseneau and Byrns do together, it would be that Byrns might consider hand-drawing the sound effects into the panels as the digital lettering was quite different than the rest of the art, shaking me out of the story enough to notice it. I maintain that comics should be fun and it’s clear that Arseneau and Byrns feel the same way.
TO SUM IT UP: Glenn Arseneau and Allen Byrns show us exactly why we should avoid backwoods towns. Travelers take note.
If you’re a fan of horror or suspense stories and can venture outside of traditional comic artwork for something that’s fresh and visually exciting, pick up The Price.
Get it from 215 Ink or Graphic.ly.