(Beginning a series of articles exploring the offerings of smaller publishers)

ABATTOIR #1 of 6 (Radical Comics, October 27, 2010) Created by Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by Rob Levin & Troy Peteri. Illustrated by Bing Cansino. Mature Readers.

This book had me feeling apprehensive before I found my way to the last page. That's a sincere compliment to the creators, because I've read and viewed enough horror storylines to be just a little bit jaded and normally immune to being moved by such fare. ABATTOIR managed to evoke a shiver from me; and while it was uncomfortable it wasn't enough to deter me from coming back for more spine-tingles.

ABATTOIR is only scheduled for a bi-monthly release, with Issue #2 due in December. The combination of atmospheric art and coloring plus solid story-telling make this new title hard to put down and forget about for 60 days. It's going to take a full year before this story plays out to the anticipated grisly conclusion. If you prefer the all-at-once reading experience you may want to program a reminder to order the trade 12 months or more from now. As for me, I'm perfectly willing to get my dose of terror every other month. I think I'll be able to hold the storyline and details in my memory from issue to issue. Issue #1 is certainly hard to forget.

It certainly begins in a gruesome fashion, with a 1980's flashback to a birthday party in the suburbs where a migraine-suffering father finally snaps (from a combination of stress and irritating neighbors) and slaughters everybody in a bloody manner.

Weeks later Richard Ashwalt, a real estate agent holding down two jobs and suffering through his own personal brand of stress, gets saddled with the unpleasant task of finding a new buyer for the property - - now famous for "the incident".

Maybe it was the after work drinks, the stressful situation with his wife when he gets home, or just the power of suggestion that makes him decide to investigate the crime scene in the middle of the night. The shadows and seemingly subliminal images of murder he sees while moving his flashlight about are spooky enough, but a prospective buyer just happens to materialize inside the home.

This gaunt skeletal presence in an out-dated suit (that looks like he's auditioning for the role of zombie undertaker) identifies himself as Jebediah Crone. He's prepared to make a deal to purchase the property this very night because "there's just something about this house that feels right." But Richard gets creeped out by the immediate nature of the offer and how anxious and persistent Crone behaves, so he ends up asking him to leave.

That night Richard has trouble sleeping, and is troubled by nightmares - - or are they flashback images of something horrific that happened in his early youth? After several sleepless nights he confides in his boss at the real estate agency, who says he's reminded of an "old ghost story about a bogeyman . . . who buys up properties and disappears . . . The only houses this guy buys are ones where someone died on the property." His boss concludes by telling Richard to get back in touch with the buyer and close the deal.

Before Richard can do anything, he learns that he's a suspect in a home invasion involving torture and murder that occurred in a neighboring town. As if things couldn't get any worse for him, his return call to the phone number on Jebediah Crone's business card goes unanswered. Possibly, that's because Richard finds Mr. Crone a waiting guest when he returns home to his family. The first issue ends as my shudders begin.

Could this be the beginning of a business relationship between Ashwalt and Crone? I'm not entirely sure. It's fairly obvious who the main character is here. Richard might just be a temporary player who doesn't quite make it to the end of Issue #6. We'll see.

The dictionary definition of "abattoir" originated in the 1820's, and is a more distinguished term for "slaughterhouse."

Creator Darren Lynn Bousman is better known as the director of the SAW movie franchise. I believe more mayhem waits in the pages of ABATTOIR.


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