When Beatrice Mossman launched her horror anthology Hell-Hued in 2020 she found a novel way of theming each issue. Rather than choosing a defined subject area, a phrase or a keyword for contributors to craft stories around she chose instead to theme each edition by a particular colour. For the debut volume that was “carmine” which led, understandably to more brutal and explicit blood-soaked tales. With this latest volume – Hell-Hued: The Periwinkle Issue published at the end of 2021 – she has picked a colour that in contrast is eerie and subdued, giving the contents of this second issue a more haunting quality.
In her introduction Mossman describes periwinkle as “the colour of twilight… a soft dreamy hue.” That’s very much in evidence in the cutaway cover. Set in an art gallery it looks in on the next interior page’s illustration, creating a sense of two worlds and of the observed observing the observers. That, of course, is very much a staple of a Beatrice Mossman comic where tactile elements that can only be achieved in physical format often become a key device in the storytelling.
Indeed Mossman’s own short comic ‘Periwinkle Lake’ (above), where two teenaged girls visit a notorious spot where criminals and witches were once executed by drowning, makes clever use of a foil reflective surface as an integral part of its delivery. Similarly, Cassandra Solon Parry’s illustrated short prose story ‘Lavender Lodge’ also uses a technique where both sides of one page-turn allow the reader to open a gateway into the other side of the page.
As with the first issue, Hell-Hued: The Periwinkle Issue mixes comics with illustration, poetry and prose. It’s the comics content that will be of specific interest to Broken Frontier readers though and there’s a number of thoughtful uses of the thematic colour in the sequential art in this volume. Roisin Cairney’s ‘Evergreen’ (above) for example, where former lovers are reunited with horrific results when suburban life and the dreamworld converge, makes subtle use of the periwinkle hues on black and white artwork; that sparing colour filling in the unspoken moments in the narrative.
‘Shiligarnika’ by Emiliyan and Stanimir Valev (above) is a concise 2-pager about appeasing the spirits of the dead on a snowy mountainside that juxtaposes stark black and white realism with ethereal periwinkle supernatural forces to great effect. It reminded me in no small way of those folkloric introductory pages that used to begin classic horror comics like Warren’s Creepy and DC’s Ghosts. Nic Koski’s ‘Blue’ (below) is also selective in how it uses the periwinkle colouring to contrast the monstrous with the everyday in a story of an otherworldly presence that has more than a hint of social commentary to it, and art that is reminiscent of horror master Bernie Wrightson in places.
Tom Smith’s ‘Hypnogogia’ (below) concerns itself with a drug trial as a would-be novelist takes medication to improve his levels of creativity with brutally ironic results. Smith’s page layouts are dizzying in their inventiveness with a twisting meta feel that comes to a suitably abrupt dramatic halt. Whereas, conversely, Michelle Ding’s ‘The Nightmare’ (bottom image) uses very stark and arresting imagery in a story of nocturnal visitation that is simple in premise but highly effective in mood.
There’s also a one-page comic by Olga Skupień called ‘Religion Class Notebooks’ that was probably the comics highlight of the issue for me but also one that I can’t comment on without completely spoiling it for the reader. Suffice to say it’s so unsettling that it instantly made me want to check out more of Skupień’s work.
There is, as mentioned, lots more non-comics content to discover in these pages, emphasising the feel of creative community that projects like this serve to create. With so few anthology projects open for submissions on the UK small press scene at the moment (in comparison to a few years back) it’s great to see books like this playing their part in bringing artists together. I look forward to seeing what Mossman’s next colour choice will be for the theme of (hopefully!) a 2022 Hell-Hued collection.
Beatrice Mossman, Roisin Cairney, Becky Coulter, Ben Couzens, Linda M. Crate, Michelle Ding, Joe Dunkerley, @fantabulous242, Nic Koski, Fiona Oakley, Cassandra Solon Parry, Rickey Rivers Jr., Olivia Roberts, Kevin T. Rogers, Kelly Salvat, Olga Skupień, Tom Smith, Melanie Stockton-Brown, Emiliyan Valev, Stanimir Valev, Rowan Wolowacz • Self-published, £10.00
Review by Andy Oliver