The new series by Paul Cornell and Sally Cantirino from Vault Comics packs an emotional punch with trauma filling its dark crevices.
Rural noir meets horror in “I Walk with Monsters,” a new comic book series by writer Paul Cornell and artist Sally Cantirino from Vault Comics. The first issue, which came out on Nov. 25, introduces a pair of grisly monster hunters who have endured and inflicted some serious trauma — physically, mentally and emotionally — in a comic where most everyone seems to be both an assailant and a victim.
With minimal dialogue and layers of subtext packed within, Cornell satisfies one’s hunger and keeps readers leashed, pulling them along with elegant pacing and stunning character moments that are horrifying with regard to how gruesome and transactional they are. Cantirino’s artwork for the opening issue is a superb match for Cornell’s script, as everything is rendered meticulously to convey story. No lines are wasted, all the panels feel personal, much like Cornell’s sparse dialogue, and every facial description and background matches the tone of the scenes within.
The comic opens with a full-page spread introducing Jacey, the series protagonist. Jacey and her monster-hunting partner David operate like everyone and everything else in the book — transactional, and how they interact is frosty to the point you may get goosebumps from reading. Their bond, though strong, contrasts them in interesting ways as they hunt and survive together. David, who literally transforms into a monster, is delicate and mindful of his situation and what he evokes to the point he seems to stake Jacey’s needs over his own. His partner, on the other hand, is cold and calculating, which begins to make more sense and explain Jacey’s personality as her back story is shared through flashbacks.
Dearbhla Kelly’s colors and lettering by Andworld Design perfectly accompany the groundwork laid by Cornell and Cantirino. Kelly’s palette is autumnal and pairs well with Andworld Design’s letters, which do a lot of the heavy lifting throughout the issue.
Like other creator-owned books from Vault, “I Walk with Monsters” takes a lot of risks. It’s rewarding to experience an independent comic that evokes so much emotion in so few pages, and is a good example that when done right, comics are an optimal medium for sharing horror stories. With such quiet drama and mystery, subsequent chapters are sure to be a scary delight if they’re rendered half as thoughtfully as this first issue, as the journey to finding Jacey’s childhood demon, the Important Man, promises to be painful and heartfelt.
This book also represents a return to the medium for Cornell, who is a screenwriter and novelist, in addition to penning comics. The British writer’s last comic book series prior to “I Walk with Monsters” was “Saucer State,” a miniseries from IDW Publishing in 2017 that's the sequel and conclusion to a 2012-13 Vertigo comic he wrote called “Saucer Country.” Ryan Kelly was Cornell’s art partner on both of those titles.