There are times when you know from the opening, whether it’s a guitar riff or a tracking shot, that you are in the metaphorical hands of a master. You lean in; maybe your jaw hangs open just a little bit because you’re in awe of the creative brilliance. It’s rare because it doesn’t feel like we have many truly master storytellers these days. It’s also rare to follow a creative career and be increasingly impressed by it.
I felt this way in the theater watching Avatar: The Way of Water, where it was clear that James Cameron was utilizing his multiple decade spanning career all at once in one film. And I feel this way while reading Night of the Ghoul. I don’t know that there’s anyone else like Scott Snyder in comics, and we are very lucky to have him. Sure, he’s known more for his work at DC, but often I find his shorter works to rise far higher than his longer superhero stories.
Night of the Ghoul starts familiar enough: a man and his son are on a road trip. It’s a quieter opener than I expected from Snyder, and I found I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was enthralled by Francesco Francavilla’s limited color palette, and when red light reflections were used early on, I knew I wasn’t putting this down until I finished it.
The usage of red is incredibly well done, with the eyes of a red wolf drawing you in. It’s a subtle indicator of what’s coming, of what’s building, because, by the time you’re in the hospital room looking at the reflecting red light from the machines, it’s a loud chime of a bell stopping you dead in your tracks. It’s not an accident that this moment is a double-page spread, and the dialogue, “Please. settle right in,” amplifies the mood. You can continue to track the usage of reds throughout. The collaboration between Snyder and Francavilla is terrifyingly excellent. It feels like magic. They make it seem easy, which doesn’t mean it is. It’s the mark of a master to make something appear easy.
Over the course of the book, Night of the Ghoul goes in and out between two narratives: one of the father and son in the present day and one of the reels of the lost movie they seek to uncover the truth of. The supposed greatest horror movie of all time. A narrative structure such as this could have been clumsy, but it’s not. The rhythm of the moves is so smooth that I almost can’t believe it. And every time I thought the stakes couldn’t be raised any higher, they were. Snyder’s curveball is as deadly as ever.
In the back of the trade paperback, they printed the original pitch for this story, and I was surprised at how different it was from the one we see play out. I love knowing the changes and how things evolved, and it only elevates how impressed I am with this book.
This book is perfect for those who are into horror at any level. Or maybe you’re trying to get into horror comics– try this one. This is not one to miss. Though, I feel I must warn you; there are a couple of images that may activate one’s arachnophobia. I didn’t see it at first, but the cover hints at it. There’s one image in particular that will live in my head for a long time, perhaps forever.