“A reality is just what we tell each other it is.” This line from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness underscores the central premise of The Last Book You’ll Ever Read, which opens with the line, “Civilization is a lie.” So, if the reality of our civilization is just what we tell each other it is, and what we’ve been telling each other is a lie, what happens when someone starts telling the truth? According to Cullen Bunn and Leila Leiz, nothing good.
Bunn is clearly influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, and this has served him well in the past with series like The Unsound and The Empty Man, but this is Lovecraft by way of John Carpenter (hence In the Mouth of Madness, itself a reference to Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness), filtered through Bunn’s unique way of presenting ordinary but compelling characters and then watching how they react as terrible things happen around them or to them. In this case, writer Olivia Kade has written Satyr, which is very popular and purports to tell the truth about our reality but is possibly causing people to act out their basest instinct and become feral. I say “possibly” because the beauty and mystery of the first issue is that it doesn’t make clear Kade’s intentions. Peppered throughout the scenes of Kade’s book signing are scenes of the carnage that is related to people that have read the book as well as two radio hosts engaging in an interesting debate as to whether Satyr merely chronicles the decline of humanity or is somehow inciting it. The entire issue is well paced to maximize the horror of the situation.
Leiz’s artwork and character design are well suited here. To paraphrase a line from the issue, each character is both predator and prey and they look both parts. There are intense close-ups that then pull back to a panel just off to the side of the main action that allows the SFX to create suspense. The use of off-kilter panel layouts with characters drawn beyond the borders make the action scenes feel immersive and fluid. One page in particular that uses flowing blood as the panel borders is a particular standout and teases the horror to come.
Giada Marchisio colors the issue beautifully with a wonderful ability to use red sparingly so that it really stands out as scenes and characters are drenched in it. Jim Campbell provides the lettering and there’s a natural flow to the dialogue that is effortless; it never gets in the way of the action. I’m not sure there’s any other letterer that can so effectively convey the quiet SFX for someone choking on their own blood. I want to note that there are several variant covers for this and every single one is exceptional, but the Chris Shehan cover produced for Little Shop of Comics (great name!) in Cuba, Missouri is my favorite.
The mystery and horror of Olivia Kade and Satyr is one I am now invested in and I’m excited by the idea that I’m not sure in which direction this is going. Is Kade a prophet of more depravity to come or a simple chronicler of the here and now? Regardless, this is the beginning of something terrible.