Spectregraph #1 Review: The Ghost Is Inside The House

James Tynion IV and Christian Ward deliver one of the most unsettling comic books in recent memory.

James Tynion IV is a force of nature when it comes to horror comic books. The writer has covered his fair of superhero series, leaving his mark on DC's Gotham City with tales of the Dark Knight, but it's in the creepy, crawly, spine-tingling corners of the world that Tynion truly shines. Taking the chance to release a new series at comics' hottest new publisher DSTLRY, Spectregraph #1 features the horror writer as his scariest and most disturbing depths to date.

Spectregraph begins by showing readers a mysterious cult approached by a shady businessman, apparently working in unison to "create ghosts" in a world where the supernatural doesn't exist (arguably, like our own). The issue then reveals its protagonist, Janie, a real estate agent attempting to juggle double duty as both a nine-to-five worker and a single mother. Unfortunately, to make sure that she doesn't lose her job, she puts far more stock into her day job than that of her role as a parent. Entering into a clockwork-style home to sell to a prospective buyer, it's clear that the creepy abode is far more than meets the eye as things go from bad to worse for Janie.

Tynion IV has become a master of horror, responsible for such major comic book series such as Nice House On The Lake, W0rldTr33, and Something Is Killing The Children. True story, while writing this review, I actually had to double-check to make sure that one writer was responsible for all of these current heavy hitters in the comic book world, in addition to House of Slaughter, Universal Monsters: Dracula, Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country and The Deviant. Tynion delivers an excellent premise here, whose terrifying nature is amplified thanks in part to the predicament that Janie creates for herself. If you are a new parent (or a parent of any sort) this story will instantly make you feel uneasy with just what is happening in the background and why Janie finds herself rushing to make sure the sale goes through.

Crafting horror in any medium can be challenging, but in my reviews in the past I've always stated that creating an uneasy mood in a comic book is a herculean task. It's all the more impressive how Tynion makes it feel effortless with these stories as the ever-growing sense of unease makes Spectregraph #1 feel like an already-claustrophobic box getting smaller. There's just enough character-building and tense scenarios to drag readers kicking and screaming into this creepy world. Much like Tynion's other works, you aren't given the full sense as to what is going on with the premiere issue, but you are given a trail of bread crumbs to follow that encourages you to pick up future issues to solve the tantalizing mystery. 

Of course, it takes a village to make a hard-hitting horror story and Tynion is accompanied by critically-acclaimed artist Christian Ward. Ward's art works well in hammering home the uneasiness that is a foundational part of the story, whether it takes readers back to Janie's home troubles or explores the dark corners of this off-beat home. Of course, Ward also captures the ghoulish side of the supernatural, creating visuals that are as surreal as they are horrific – contorting forms for terrifying effect. The colors he incorporates into each page readily set the eerie mood. If panel work is a lot like directing a film scene, then the creative team does a fantastic job in balancing the amount of space they have with each page to make events and settings feel consistently fresh. 

James Tynion IV continues to create some of the spookiest stories not just in the comic book medium, but in all of modern fiction. Each tale feels like they would make for a killer horror movie or television series but are already undeniably brilliant as comics, and Spectregraph #1 definitely fits that bill. If you're looking for another horror comic book that delivers on all of the promise of great horror comics, give DSTLRY's latest series a look and be sure to leave the lights on. 

Published by DSTLRY

On April 24th 

Written by James Tynion IV

Art by Christian Ward

Colors by Christian Ward

Letters by Aditya Bidikar

Cover by Christian Ward