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The Autumnal Review: Horror that Packs a Pumpkin Spiced Punch

Eliza reviews The Autumnal, a book so scary Amazon won’t even advertise it!

The perfect comic to pair with a pumpkin spice latte and a giant scarf has been bundled up into a paperback book! The Autumnal is a beautiful and horrifying story about Kat and her daughter Sybil who head to Comfort Notch. This fictional small town has a vibe between Stepford and the village in Midsommar, but with Jason Wordie’s gorgeous fiery colors earning Comfort Notch the title of America’s Prettiest Autumn.  Kat is a bit out of place rolling into town with her stuff in a bag, sporting a rocker look and a neck tattoo, but she inherits her recently-deceased mother’s house and sets up her life there with her kid.

I really like reading about Kat, who has a lot of dimension as a character. Some protagonists in horror make such dumb decisions that it can bring you out of a story, wondering how anyone so stupid would have made it to adulthood. Not Kat, however. That isn’t to say she makes good decisions. She makes a lot of really bad ones during this series. From the first pages, we get the sense that her life has been absolutely filled with poor choices, so when she does something boneheaded you want to scream BE BETTER but like, you get it. It’s consistent with her as a person. And because of this, it’s very easy to get invested. Kat is flawed, but you root for her and want her to grow and have good things happen to her and stick it to those judgemental townspeople.

If you told me Daniel Kraus had written comics for the last two decades, I would believe you. The Autumnal is perfect horror, but also does an excellent job of being a comic. The pacing is spot on and there’s a good combination of dialogue and visual storytelling. I was shocked to learn this was Kraus’s first comic! 

This is brought to life by a phenomenal visual art team. There are a lot of details like leaves falling across the pages and easter eggs referencing other Vault works that add whimsy to a comic that goes to some dark places. Shehan shows incredible range in The Autumnal, capturing strong emotions, large crowds, pretty nature, sexy times, horrifying moments, and lighthearted scenes. Wordie’s colors and Jim Campbell’s creative lettering are a perfect fit for this series, following the emotional highs and lows of Kat’s and Sybil’s story. If you’re wondering how all of these fit into a single comic… It’s the perfect time to pick it up and sit under a nice tree with this book.

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