Where Monsters Lie #1 Review: The HOA from Hell Arrives at Dark Horse Comics

Writer and cartoonist Kyle Starks has earned a reputation for genre-film inspired plots, indulgent, but well-paced action sequences, and an exceedingly sharp sense of humor. All of those elements are evident in their new Dark Horse Comics collaboration with artist Piotr Kowalski, Where Monsters Lie, but the series also continues Starks' ambitious streak of not repeating himself. Even when compared to the impressive Image Comics' horror launch of I Hate This Place from 2022, Where Monsters Lie #1 is an entirely different breed of beast and may be their darkest concept yet. It's still funny and hints at vicious action sequences to come, but it's playing with a set of characters so deranged that the best points of comparison are films like The Devil's Rejects and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

Where Monsters Lie #1 introduces readers to a gated community supporting a wide-array of serial killers who comfortably occupy the slasher sub-genre. Readers will recognize homages to The Shape, Captain Spaulding, and many more residing in neatly kept suburban households with manicured lawns and trash cans kept out of sight (per the HOA rules). The premise answers the question about how such maniacs come so well prepared to murder teenagers and other innocent victims, as well as where they go between sprees, and the dissonance between the personalities on display and their shared setting presents a great deal of tension and humor – often in the same sequence.

Given the premise readers will recognize it's simply a matter of time before things fall apart, especially with residents like the unfortunately named and dressed "Fuckmaster." The debut is focused on introducing the concept and most of the characters contained within the small neighborhood's walls. There's not a single sympathetic figure in the lot, but Starks and Kowalski quickly define recognizable personalities and some unforgettable designs and outfits. While everyone is a mass murderer, there are degrees of responsibility and capability along with internal conflicts ranging from concerns about community upkeep to Freddy vs. Jason-style showdowns just waiting to happen. While many figures are apparent homages, besides the Michael Myers-inspired Daniel Dawson, they exist independently of any required film knowledge.

Much of the humor emerges from the more responsible members of the community focused upon maintaining this madhouse. Backbiting comments about neighbors and nostalgia for how things used to be echoes familiar sentiments in America's suburbs constructed in the midst of white flight (it is immediately noticeable that the cast of killers are anything but diverse), and it delivers some of Starks' most caustic and subtle jokes to date.

While Kowalski only has an opportunity at the issue's start to showcase his style of action and gore, it's a potent preview of things to come. Throughout the following pages, he ensures that each new arrival leaves an impression and sets reader expectations high for what's to come next month. Although the threat to this place is just barely established, it's enough to see how so many background sights and the style of each killer may produce both terrifying effects and some truly dark sources of humor.

Where Monsters Lie #1 lays the groundwork for a siege on a monstrous compound filled with familiar concepts in an arrangement capable of commenting on and finding humor in a typically far-from-fearsome setting. As it plays to both Starks and Kowalski's strengths, it also draws out new aspects in both of their work, leaving horror fans plenty to be excited for as the series continues.

Published by Dark Horse Comics

On February 1, 2023

Written by Kyle Starks

Art by Piotr Kowalski

Colors by Vladimir Popov

Letters by Joshua Reed

Cover by Piotr Kowalski with Vladimir Popov