The Silver Coin #1 may be enjoyed simply. It is a horror story built on the classic trope of "be careful what you wish for" told from beginning to end by two of the most accomplished creators working in comics today, artist Michael Walsh and writer Chip Zdarsky. There's more to it than that—the series was co-created by others, including Kelly Thompson, Jeff Lemire, and Ed Brisson, and future issues will tell more self-contained stories featuring the same eponymous, cursed object. However, there's no need for readers to obsess over continuity or connections or creator changes here. You can simply pick up the issue, read it, enjoy it, and continue. That's exceedingly rare in direct market comics today and it left me far more excited to pick up The Silver Coin #2 than any cliffhanger could have.
The first issue focuses on a rock band in the late 70s pushed out of their comfort zone due to the rise of disco, until their lead guitarist Ryan discovers an old silver coin that provides their music with supernatural power. Readers old enough to be grabbing this comic are old enough to recognize the narrative; it's a familiar riff on some of the horror genre's oldest tropes. Yet those tropes have aged and continue resonating for a reason. Even the monkey's paw deserves an update. What really sings about The Silver Coin is the efficacy and style with which this story is presented. Zdarsky pares a complete arc into an economical 22 pages, which Walsh fills with life and meaning. It's possible to imagine this story in a longer format, but impossible to say that anything more could be necessary.
Ryan is the flawed protagonist who possesses this story's "monkey's paw" and follows that familiar path all of the way to its end, but Walsh fills that arc with meaning. The eye that opens from the coin's center is slowly assembled into Ryan's form in color and placement as they grow more reliant upon one another. The slow descent of a raven in the background fills the issue's mood with darkness as does the persistent "SKTCH" of an open wound. Rereading these panels provides readers with additional depth and highlights the value brought by a skilled storyteller to any form, no matter how familiar. For all of his flaws, Ryan's conflicting station as a sullen drop out and angry striver are merged into a character who resonates on the page.
Characters outside of Ryan are sidelined as a result of the story's intense focus. His bandmates reflect caution and provide a relief for Ryan's unlimited ambition, but it's difficult to characterize any individual beyond their reactions to Ryan's story. The only exception to this is Ryan's father who only appears for a couple of pages, but exudes past tragedy as he steps in and out of darkness. It's here that Walsh begins to tease a larger story behind The Silver Coin without ever making that story feel necessary.
Much of the issue is a slow build towards consequences, developing tension with individual drops of blood, small warnings, and encroaching darkness. Terror does not come from a single revelation, but the release of that tension. The final few pages unleash it in a wave of carnage and colors that strongly contrast with what preceded it and make for a truly horrifying scenario, one that has haunted my thoughts since reaching it.
I am curious to see how Walsh and his future collaborators continue to spin this tale of a magical coin with a mortal cost, but further installments won't detract or contribute to my appreciation for this single issue. The Silver Coin #1 is an example of how stories are defined by the skill placed into their telling. Walsh's deft telling of Zdarsky's tight narrative makes for a thrilling episode that requires no investment from readers beyond what they hold in their hands. As a result it becomes an engrossing tale unto itself and one easily recommended to fellow readers of comics and fans of horror. Picking up #1 is easy because it's everything you need for a spine-chilling read.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published by Image Comics
On April 7, 2021
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Michael Walsh
Colors by Michael Walsh
Letters by Michael Walsh
Cover by Michael Walsh