Sunday, September 19, 2010
Hell House: The Awakening: The Review
A few days ago, I posted a brief preview of the upcoming Viper Comics graphic novel, Hell House: The Awakening by Chad Feehan and Ryan Dixon. In the intervening time, Mr. Dixon and the folks at Viper Comics were kind enough to send me an advance copy of Hell House for review. In a nutshell, if you like your horror subversive and somewhat controversial, then you’ll want to add Hell House to your collection when it arrives in comic shops and book stores at the end of this month. Continue reading past the break for the complete review.
Hell House features a diverse cast—which includes a group of fundamentalist Christians, an atheist, and a few Christians who are more moderate in their religious outlook—as they prepare for a Hell House event sponsored by a conservative Christian high school. Yet as the Hell House is taking place, the Rapture actually happens, and those who remain standing are forced to contend with the horrifying aftermath. While this may sound like some kind of Left Behind knock-off, it most definitely is not. Imagine if an Evil Dead movie and a Jack Chick comic tract went on an all-night drinking binge together and then hooked up, their offspring would be Hell House: The Awakening.
To give any more details away about Hell House would ruin the story. What I can say is that Feehan and Dixon have clearly done their homework on Hell House events and Christian eschatology and have woven together an interesting story that takes the religious concept of the Rapture and turns it sideways, all while taking full advantage of the narrative conventions provided by the horror subgenre of post-apocalyptic survival. This eclectic mixture of horror and holiness yields a graphic novel with plenty of surprises, right on up to the last page. Furthermore, Hell House leaves plenty of room a sequels; if Feehan and Dixon keep this level of quality up, their future Hell House graphic novels have the potential to do for Rapture-centric horror narratives what Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series has done for zombies.
That said, if Viper Comics is going to publish more Hell House graphic novels (and they should), they need to give Feehan and Dixon a few more pages to use. While Hell House tells a complete story within its page limit, Tsubana Yozora’s excellent artwork feels like it needs a little more breathing space so that it can properly blossom into its full grotesque glory.
In case you’re wondering if you’ll be offended by this book, a lot will depend on how you feel about Hell House events. If you think that Hell Houses are sincere, legitimate ways to evangelize to people, then you will HATE this graphic novel. If you think that Hell Houses are nothing more than lurid, exploitative publicity stunts to advance the interests of arch-conservative religious groups (believe me, you don’t have to be a non-religious person to feel that way), then Hell House: The Awakening is the graphic novel for you. Keep in mind, though, that while Hell House takes quite a few satirical jabs at religious fundamentalism, it is a horror story at its core with all of the requisite gore, vicious kill scenes, and high body count.
Finally, if you plan on picking up a copy of Hell House: The Awakening and you live in the Los Angeles area, you’re in luck. Feehan and Dixon will be at Golden Apple Comics on September 29th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for an in-store signing of their premiere graphic novel. Click here for more details.