If you enjoy horror comics and you don’t know the name Cullen Bunn yet, it’s about time you learned it. Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, Pumpkinhead), is a prolific horror writer who, as far as I’m concerned, is the hottest name in horror comics at the moment. He blew readers away with Harrow County, and somehow found a way to completely reinvent Pumpkinhead. Both series have recently ended, but don’t worry, because Bunn has a new series out that is sure to impress. That series is Bone Parish…
…Set in New Orleans, Bone Parish #1 introduces us to a new drug called Ash, made from the bones of the dead. Part hallucinogenic wonder, part nightmarish trip, the drug has begun to gain in popularity. Pushed by the Winters family, this first issue throws us into the fire as the family begins to learn the struggles of establishing a drug empire, villainous entities closing in all around them.
Written by Cullen Bunn, Bone Parish is wailing with originality, a cacophony of deadly good ideas. I love The Godfather and Breaking Bad just as much as the next person, but he has taken a rather played out idea revolving around the rise of a crime family, and completely turned it on its head with the supernatural element of Ash. What is Ash? Made from the bones of the dead, Ash is a drug, snorted like cocaine, that gives its users one hell of an insane high. We’ve all heard of cannibalism, but Osteophagy-ism? (It’s a word, sort of, look it up). Ash grants its user the “experiences” of the corpse whose bones provided that particular batch. Want to know what it was like to write like Edgar Allan Poe? Snort some of his finger bones! Want to feel what it was like to have the mind of Einstein? Sniff his skull dust! Want to have the sensations of one of Jim Morrison’s orgies? I don’t want to suggests which part of his bone structure you should put your nose, but you get the idea!
Admittedly, the usage of Ash is a bit confusing to me in this first issue, but that’s fine for an opening. I never want to have everything laid out for me right away, anyway. What is a little unclear is just how exactly Ash works. In some cases, the user seems to live through the eyes of the person the Ash was made from. In other instances, the user can have a bad trip and, er, literally be torn apart. Any addict could probably tell you they’ve had their mind “ripped up” by a nasty high before, but it would be a first for someone to actually be torn to shreds from one…unless they jump into a wood chipper, I suppose. And in other cases, Ash seems to allow the spirit of the corpse it belongs to to manifest in a physical form. It may not all be clear just yet how the drug works, but damnit if I’m not incredibly curious. Cullen, give me your knowledge!
Being a first issue involving a crime family and their crew, there are a lot of characters to meet in Bone Parish #1, and I mean A LOT. You have the cunning Grace, the head of the family (and isn’t it always best when a badass woman is running the show)? There’s her source of reasoning and husband, Andre. Then there’s their children, Brae (most likely the oldest brother, and the most ruthless), Wade, Leon, and Brigitte (the genius who makes the Ash). Plus, you have Dante, who seems to be the main pusher for the business, and finally Mr. Lamont, a rival drug lord. Because there are so many people to introduce in such a short amount of time, we don’t get to know much about any of them, but Cullen is a smart enough writer that each character, at least on the surface level, manages to show a bit of who they are and what we might expect in issues to come. Each member of the Winters family is interesting, and it will be fascinating to see how the conflicts begin to arise over money and the supernatural elements playing into the story.
As for the supernatural, the art by Jonas Scharf (War for the Planet of the Apes) does not disappoint. His work depicts the wonder of living in the shoes of a past life, especially with the addition of a gorgeous palette of colors from colorist Alex Guimaraes (Kong on the Planet of the Apes). The user’s trip practically oozes off of the page. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they wanted to light a joint and just gaze at the beautiful spectrums of pinks and purples until their eyes bled. Scharf and Guimaraes don’t just make the perfect pairing for pretty trips down literal memory lane, though. The horror, though brief, is effective and surprisingly gruesome. I have always known Boom Studios as leaning towards young adult fare like Lumberjanes, but trust me when I say that the grisly gore spilled on the page in Bone Parish is as adult as it comes. Aside from the gore, there is also plenty of imagery to help lure the reader into an eerie world of drugs and blood, with corpses dried up like cranberries lying around laboratories, and drug dealers collecting their “stash” by digging up bodies in creepy graveyards.
Bone Parish #1 is an impressive and morbid beginning to an idea that brings a bit of freshness to what was a crime family sub-genre that was starting to rot. Original, colorful, and populated by curious characters who have plenty of room to grow, and die, Cullen Bunn has done it again by presenting readers with another unique horror story ripe with potential that likely won’t be buried any time soon.
Bone Parish #1 is available now from Boom Studios.
By Matt Konopka
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