THE GATES OF MISERY #1: Comix Review

Welcome to Mount Misery Cemetery! Do you dare to enter THE GATES OF MISERY to hear the horrific stories of its denizens? This reviewer did . . . and survived to tell the tale of a kickass new comic created by awesome writers and illustrators.

THE GATES OF MISERY #1: Credits

  •  stories by:
    • Brandon Cronenberg: writer-director, ANTIVIRAL (2012) – see my review
    • Steven Kostanski: writer-director, MANBORG (2011), THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 (2014, segment “W is for Wish”), and the upcoming feature THE VOID (in pre-production)
    • Jon Knautz: writer-director, THE SHRINE (2010), JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER (2007)
    • Dave Alexander: award-winning filmmaker; current Editor-In-Chief, RUE MORGUE Magazine
  • created and illustrated by:

THE GATES OF MISERY #1: Background

THE GATES OF MISERY is a new horror comic anthology from creator and illustrator Matthew Therrien. Therrien funded the production of this book via a successful 2014 Kickstarter campaign.

Like many horror fans who grew up with classic horror comics from the 60s and 70s, Therrien wanted to make something equally exciting for today’s modern horror reader. The idea was simple: allow horror writers and filmmakers – many of whom have never written for comics before – the chance to create their own six-page horror stories.

With no budget restrictions (one of the benefits of telling stories in a graphic format like this), the writers were free to create anything they desired, whatever they chose to pull from the depths of their nightmarish minds. These stories were then brought to life with artwork from Therrien himself, as well as Toronto artists Barr, Haberman, and Henderson.

THE GATES OF MISERY #1: Commentary

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY Intro Page - image source: Facebook

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY Intro Page – image source: Facebook

The anthology features four short stories tied together by an overarching concept. Mount Misery Cemetery offers to tell the tales of some of the “hundreds upon THOUSANDS rotting within” its bounds — “their sorrow, their remorse, their secrets and their deepest regrets” — to “those souls who are brave enough to listen.”

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story "Re-Phase Malfunction" - image source: Facebook

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story “Re-Phase Malfunction” – image source: Facebook

“Re-Phase Malfunction” (Kostanski/Therrien) takes the reader to the London of 1926 to tell the tale of rogue physicist Doctor Paul Knisely, whose unorthodox research has been derided by the prominent scientists of the day. He has invented a device that allows him to access the “Un-World” — an invention that he tests for the first time in this story. Therrien’s description (on Facebook) of this tale as “gruesome” and “Lovecraftian” is more than accurate. The noir-ish artwork conveys the story with adept use of light and shadows (to depict the earthly world) and cool blues and greens that contrast nicely with bright, blood reds (in the “Un-World” . . . and on the threshold between the two worlds). The story is told mostly with captions that function like a film voice-over. Word balloons are reserved for dialogue crucial to the dramatic turns in this tightly scripted, smoothly flowing story.

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story "Death in Li Tolqa" - image source: Facebook

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story “Death in Li Tolqa” – image source: Facebook

“Death in Li Tolqa” (Cronenberg/Therrien/Haberman) is a science-fiction horror tale that asks what would happen if people convicted of crimes could create clones of themselves that can be used as a scapegoat for purposes of punishment. It’s clearly a Cronenberg story, as it investigates the horrific consequences of using futuristic technology for narcissistic and antisocial purposes. Therrien’s illustration tells the story using a similar color scheme to the previous tale, but rendered in a more futuristic way. He handles flashback sequences with clever montages of images, avoiding the need for lengthy verbal exposition. Once again, the layout allows a smooth flow. Haberman’s introduction art introduces the story, connecting it with the Mount Misery theme using her own distinctive (and complementary) style.

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story "Darrel and Lenny" - image source: Facebook

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story “Darrel and Lenny” – image source: Facebook

“Darrel and Lenny” (Knautz/Barr/Haberman) features surrealistic, almost hallucinatory artwork to depict the antisocial misadventures of Darrel and his friend Lenny, who is apparently an evil space alien. Barr’s style here (which uses a brighter palette than Therrien’s) should be a tipoff about the story-line’s direction. Is Lenny really who he appears to be? You’ll just have to read the story to find out. As Haberman’s introduction foreshadows, “Consider it . . . a cautionary tale . . . before it’s too late . . . .”

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story "The Cowboy Underground" - image source: Facebook

Panel from THE GATES OF MISERY story “The Cowboy Underground” – image source: Facebook

“The Cowboy Underground” (Alexander/Therrien/Haberman) uses the fortune-telling machine (a device that I have always found very creepy) as the basis for its horror. A writer of Western novels discovers such a machine in a hidden room in the rural home to which he has moved with his wife. He gets more than he bargained for when he pulls the handle and is granted a wish by the cowboy figure inside the machine.

Summary: If I had not received a review copy of this comic, I would have bought one for myself. The short tales pack a lot of horror, yet leave the reader wanting more. This is not surprising, given the writers who created the stories. Similarly, the artwork is excellent. In particular, Therrien’s illustration style has a cinematic quality that makes his panels seem like moving pictures.

The 32-page issue is now available in digital format (with a limited print release planned in the near future). You can pick it up here:

http://thegatesofmisery.bigcartel.com/product/the-gates-of-misery

Website: www.thegatesofmisery.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thegatesofmisery
Twitter: @Mt_Misery

Disclosure: LOUD GREEN BIRD provided this review in exchange for access to a digital edition of THE GATES OF MISERY #1. No financial considerations were involved.