When comics readers look at successful collaborative partnerships, there's always a lingering question about whether this team can really go the distance. After all, not everyone can continually deliver thrilling new concepts like a Brubaker & Phillips or an Ennis & Dillon. However, after years of successful work it seems that Lemire & Sorrentino have joined the top-tier of partnerships as they deliver another home run of a first issue, following the already outstanding likes of Primordial, Gideon Falls, The Passageway, and even Green Arrow. There's no skepticism left to be held about what Lemire & Sorrentino are capable of, and Ten Thousand Black Feathers delivers everything fans of horror and suspense comics might hope to find.
Ten Thousand Black Feathers #1 introduces the second story of The Bone Orchard Mythos, a shared horror universe constructed by Lemire and Sorrentino, resulting in an unwieldy title. Yet the story itself requires nothing more of readers than their attention. Those who are unfamiliar with the Bone Orchard concept or missed The Passageway will not even notice the connections they're missing. Rather than using the concept to forcibly compel readers to buy more comics, it establishes a tone and approach that makes for an engrossing first issue here.
The story focuses on Trish and Jackie, two women who bond over their passion for creative fiction when they are young before tragic events befall them. While the scope and nature of those tragic events is obscured, Ten Thousand Black Feathers uses a non-linear narrative to detail the trajectory of their lives as children, adolescents, and adults. It provides readers with plenty of context—showcasing first meetings, revealing family dynamics, and hinting at supernatural origins—while keeping the dark secrets of their youthful lives hidden just out of sight.
This approach ensures readers are able to quickly invest in the women this story centers upon, young nerds discovering a place of respite and safety with one another, while simultaneously developing a sense of dread and building tension. While the facts of what darkness has already occurred (and what is still to come) are hidden, Sorrentino's approach when presenting the story never allows readers to forget that something is desperately wrong. Disorienting layouts utilize concentric circles and strange outlines to inform without spelling out the details of what's occurring. Even on pages with familiar layouts, there are individual elements like a city's silhouette to provide a sense of unease. Shifts in style, well utilized in Primordial, are used to distinguish between timelines and create an implicit understanding that things were better when Trish and Jackie first met as if the world has decayed since then to provide a rotten present.
That's not to suggest there are no scares or revelations in the first issue. Two splash pages provide dramatic effects and clarify that powerful forces are at play, even if they remain difficult to define. Both images serve to raise looming questions in readers' minds – the sort of mystery Lemire & Sorrentino have proven they can pay off. Combined with some eerie captions and an unnamed narrator, they leave Ten Thousand Black Feathers on an irresistible cliffhanger.
Ten Thousand Black Feathers #1 serves up a terribly enticing mystery just in time for the Halloween season. While many will be familiar with the broad strokes of reality-warping horror and conspiracy that infuse much of Lemire & Sorrentino's work, this comic like all of their collaborations before it stands on its own unique merits. Love of imagination and the realities of modern life careen into one another as the tragedy of a friendship is revealed. Over all of those sympathetic threads hangs unfathomable darkness promising a horror story capable of shattering readers senses. Those who are familiar with their work won't want to wait before joining Lemire & Sorrentino for a terrifying tale like this.
Published by Image Comics
On September 14, 2022
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Colors by David Stewart
Letters by Steve Wands