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– by Tim Jousma

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There are some premises in story land that work no matter who uses them. Granted, the quality will vary among the person telling the story but if you nail down the basics, you’re going to come out with something that will satisfy people.

Croak #1 from Alterna Comics gives us a variation on the basic premise of what happens when young people get lost in the woods with a killer. The story itself was quite solid. Being an issue one, its job was nothing more than set up. It had to get the characters in all the right spots to get the story under way which it did nicely.

One aspect I appreciated was the character building dialogue at the beginning of the story. Instead of barreling right in, the writer spent some time letting us get to know these people. When it comes to a horror story, the best ones work when we care about the characters involved. In movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street (the Wes Craven classic), Freddy Krueger became such an iconic villain thanks to the way Wes Craven built up the character of Nancy Thompson. If we as the audience didn’t care about her or felt she was expendable as a protagonist (like pretty much every other character that came in that series), we would not have been as scared of Freddy as we became.

The only real problem I had with the story was the ending. To me, the end of the issue was a little muddled as to what was going on. Yes, a writer should leave the readers of a comic having more questions than answers so they’re impelled to buy the next issue but that’s not my point here. I felt confusion. We spend the whole issue dealing with three characters and suddenly on the second to last page we see these bird like humanoid creatures come out of nowhere and one of the characters we’ve met is now dead. Will it be explained next issue? I hope so. But when the characters were sitting around a fire talking about the legend of the woods, they could have used a little foreshadowing so the reader doesn’t scratch their head in confusion.

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The art work was pretty solid. While it has a rough edge to it, I really appreciated the attention to character. Little things like facial expressions can be over looked by some artists all for the sake of making everything else look pretty and yet I find facial expressions, body language, can be the lynchpin that takes a comic from being good to great.

One issue I had was the layout of the panels. While it only happened a couple of times, there were instances where the panel layout for the pages became a little muddled and confusing. I’d read the dialogue in one panel only to find the next panel was situated in a place I was not expecting causing me to have to reread the page to make sure I was in the right spot. I would advise them to be a little more careful next time to have the panel layout flow better for the reader.

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Overall I liked the issue. While I do have some issues with some of the story, it was a nice start to hopefully a good story. The biggest complaint I would highly advise them to keep on the lookout for is panel layout. It’s not going to be perfect every single time but I hope they spend a little more time guiding folks to the appropriate next panel so the reader doesn’t have to stop their enjoyment of the story.

Speaking of story, Alterna Comics has a nice catalogue of stories to choose from. If you don’t find Alterna Comics in your local comic shop, head to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlternaComics/items where you can find a collection of graphic novels from Alterna. If you use the promo code TJ2016, you’ll even get $5 off your order. So support your local comic book shop and independent publishers today.

Writer: Cody Andrew Sousa

Artist: Francesco Iaquinta

Colorist: Chris O’Halloran

Lettering and Design: Dezi Sienty

Editor: Dan Shepard