A stranger rides on horseback through haunted woods and towns in search of a missing boy, presumably his own son. He wears a bicorne hat and moves like a silver-screen Errol Flynn. Meanwhile, in what appears to be the waking world, a child lies in a coma. Is he dreaming of this Napoleon-esque swashbuckler in dark robes and shimmering sword-blade? Perhaps this boy is the one whom this dark stranger seeks. But are they in separate worlds? Different times? Dual planes of existence?
Coming to the close of Parasomnia #1, I was left with zero answers to the aforementioned inquiries, and even more questions were piled on top of all those for which I had no answers. But these were not the good kind of questions. In any story, a little bit of well-crafted confusion can go a long way, but there need to be clues that give us a deeper hint as readers as to what the probable answers may be. Most disheartening of all is the fact that this is the first time I’ve read a story written by Cullen Bunn, whose prior hit Harrow County is one of my favorite horror stories in comics, in which I haven’t been fully immersed by the close of a first issue.
The one facet of the book that seems to have gotten me through this opening issue of Parasomnia is Andrea Mutti’s artwork and coloring. Each panel reads like a gorgeous painting, beautifully rendered with muted colors and evocative scenes that add much to Bunn’s sparse, poetic, and seemingly disjointed narrative.
What’s more, Parasomnia, despite the wonderful neologistic title, plays out more like a gory action comic than a horror tale, the latter of which I’ve come to expect from Bunn. It’s as if the story he’s telling is some kind of an awkward cross between V for Vendetta and Matt Kindt’s Revolver, a story that plays around with our minds, but with a foot in both the world of the waking and the world of dreams. The only thing is that where the others succeed, this one only serves to confuse the reader a bit more than any first issue should.
However––and this is a big however––knowing Bunn’s prior work, I’m sure he has something twisted up his literary sleeves, though, and even though this first issue of Parasomnia didn’t snatch my attention long enough to keep me awake to find out what’s in store in future issues, based on his previous work, I’d still recommend reading this issue, even if only for Mutti’s captivating artwork, and seeing where the next issue takes you.
Cullen Bunn (W), Andrea Mutti (A), Simon Bowland (L) Dark Horse Comics, $3.99
Review by John T. Trigonis