Chasing the Dead (2012)
Writers: Matthew Scott & Tim Westland
Original Novel: Joe Schreiber
Art: Dietrich Smith
Colors: Sendol Arts & Matthew Scott
IDW Publishing is a company that has a good chunk of original properties under their belt, as well as a good chunk of titles based off of already existing works. Chasing the Dead falls under that second category, and is based off of Joe Schreiber's book of the same name, which was released in 2007.
Chasing the Dead is the story of single mother (as of 1 year ago before the story takes place) Sue, who goes through any lengths necessary to get her kidnapped daughter Lily back from a cryptic kidnapper. The story starts with a flashback to a time when Sue and her ex-husband, Phil, were children who found themselves confronted by a serial killer named The Harvester that has been plaguing the town, murdering and stealing the eyes of children under 13. The murderer goes after Sue, providing Phil an opening with which he gets the drop on and kills the villain. Through their brief and violent interaction with this killer it is clear that something isn't right. His eyes glow read and his stab wounds don't seem to bleed much. The children swear never to discuss that day or it's events ever again.
After that intense but brief flashback, we shift to present day, a.k.a. 20 years later. Sue is now a successful owner of a Boston real estate firm and it is hinted that she is very well off. She returns to her home and is paying the babysitter when her alarm goes off. Sue goes to her room to turn it off, thinking her daughter, Lily, was playing with it, when she receives a phone call from her babysitter's phone with a voice simply stating, "Your daughter is very lovely, Susan." From there the story escalates into a late night quest to find her daughter while performing various tasks that the captor forces her into. As she starts to battle hauntings from the past as well as the horrors of the present, reality seems to distort, providing more confusion and fear for Sue. The perception shift also changes the genre for the reader, as it is easy to see that what started out as a thriller is quickly becoming a supernatural horror. The writing team manages that transition seamlessly, and the payoff is worth the wait.
Dietrich Smith's art provides characters with very descriptive facial contours and shading. My favorite characteristic is the constant look on Sue's face. Sure, she gets scared by what's going on around her but under that is the concern for her daughter and the need to keep moving. He also shows backgrounds that are finely detailed using gradiated brush strokes and darker shades. The colors add an uneasy atmosphere while still providing a good amount of environmental detail. Both the colors and line work provide an excellent depiction of the gore and violence of the "people" in this story.
If I were to relate this to other tales, I would say that Chasing the Dead is a mix between Silent Hill and a Saw film. A few years ago, when I didn't have a son, I might have read this and thought "That's a pretty creepy story." Now, however, as soon as Lily was kidnapped I immediately felt a pit in my stomach and with every action I rooted and feared for Sue on her journey. A good adapted comic can be very hard to come by, so Smith, Scott, and Westland should be commended for the truly terrifying tale that hits way too close to home (in a good, entertaining way). Individual issues can be bought from Comic Collector Live using this link or you can buy the trade from Barnes and Noble using this link. Thanks for reading and I'll get back to you Wednesday with a NEW PODCAST!