Gabby just inherited an expansive rural estate stocked with cattle from her aunt and uncle. If she and her girlfriend Trudy manage to spend a year tending to it, they stand to make a lot of money. The only problems are that a blood-soaked sociopath, ghosts, UFOs, and a woodland cryptid stalk the farm. As the young women drive towards their new home passing cantankerous locals and (genuinely) gorgeous settings, it's easy to recall so many great horror movie introductions from the 1980s. This take on the ever-versatile genre just decided to collect every sort of monster that could be imagined under a single roof, and it makes for a surprisingly fun start.
Given that brief synopsis it's easy to imagine any issue #1 being overwhelmed by the sprawling premise of this "All of the Above" horror comic, but I Hate This Place #1 showcases an elegant script that manages to capture the entirety of its premise while simultaneously landing a number of creepy moments and endearing Gabby and Trudy to readers. It's remarkable how much ground is covered in a mere 24 pages, although readers familiar with Kyle Starks' past project will remain unsurprised. There's not a single ounce of wasted space here. When the women travel to and explore their new home, rich backgrounds and layered dialogue provide readers with an abundance of context. That smart approach provides space for a nighttime stroll to move at a fast pace and emphasize the movement of figures over any text. The craft on display in delivering such a complete first chapter is cause enough for any comic book fan to check out I Hate This Place #1.
That should not undermine the horror bona fides this comic book possesses. Although this farm seems to attract every type of terror imaginable, each element is introduced with gravitas and interest in these pages. The less-than-supernatural killer is the first to appear in an aside providing readers some action before the main story begins, while the ghosts take centerstage in supernatural affairs with a surprising series of events that take full advantage of the shadows and darkness inherent to the setting. UFOs and the aforementioned cryptid are more mysterious, but artist Artyom Topilin and colorist Lee Loughridge ensure they make a big impression when briefly witnessed. Each individual element is potent enough to carry a story, but the biggest challenge for I Hate This Place as it continues will be managing to balance the potent mixture of all four.
The sometimes frantic pace of introduction doesn't allow any of the antagonists to take centerstage in this affair, though. That's reserved for the heroes at its heart and Gabby and Trudy are the hook that is bound to keep me on the line waiting for I Hate This Place #2. Like many of Starks' past characters, they find vitality in exaggeration but are more grounded than those found in his comedic works. Instead, they take on archetypes of flower child and survivalist with the potential absurdities of each sanded down to make them feel real, including appearances that shape readers' perception. Nowhere is this degree of characterization more apparent than in how they interact with a back-and-forth that makes the relationship read as being lived in – the sort of thing only found with time.
Whether it's for the monsters or unlucky couple now surrounded by them, readers will find plenty to love in I Hate This Place #1. In a beautiful splash of the farm in daylight or taut panels utilizing darkness to shape terror, it provides an excellently crafted debut defined by immense ambitions ready to be realized.
Published by Image Comics
On May 18, 2022
Written by Kyle Starks
Art by Artyom Topilin
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Artyom Topilin0comments