It’s been a little over a year since the launch of The Bone Orchard Mythos, a large umbrella for the creative team featuring Jeff Lemire (writer), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Steve Wands (letterer/designer) to tell all sorts of varied horror stories similar to the successful Gideon Falls. Beginning with the Free Comic Book Day 2022 one shot, followed by The Passageway and then Ten Thousand Black Feathers, The Bone Orchard Mythos has found varied levels of success within the intended standalone stories.
Tenement is the latest story/series in the sequence that is described as something anyone can read in any order as the underlying throughline is not one of plot but one of atmosphere. Without going too much into the plot of this issue, as the main show is the atmosphere, I can say, like the first issue of Gideon Falls, Tenement #1 is undeniable. The narration provides a storybook tone that I couldn’t help but be enthralled by, and as always, Sorrentino’s layouts are captivating. Tenement draws you in immediately and doesn’t let go.
In this extra-sized debut issue, the large cast of seven neighbors in a low income apartment complex are introduced fairly well. This was a concern I had going in; it’s difficult tracking characters, especially when they are everyday folks who will presumably change their clothes throughout the series. One simple method utilized here was the repetition of the names of the characters. Upon finishing the issue, I felt I had a grasp on who the characters were, and in some cases I am eager to witness how their flaws will impact the story.
One of the things that struck me upon reading the first entry in the Mythos was this clear sense of morality — specifically in that story, the protagonist’s ongoing mistakes are paid for by the story’s end, and the dog is not harmed. There’s a balance of innocence and guilt, a clear scale for the universe. I like that Tenement #1 hints at that through the flawed characters. If the FCBD issue is anything to go by, then the sins of the cast of Tenement will be punished.
This is something that Lemire has often excelled at– characters that feel real. For all I know, these are living people that are off doing stuff even when I am not seeing them in a comic. This book feels like Lemire using all his skills from Essex County all the way to this moment. In some of the other Mythos books, Sorrentino was the star of the show. With Tenement, the team is firing on all cylinders. This is what I wanted when they first announced this connected series.
One of my favorite transitions in this issue is a sequence where Sorrentino pushes in on the vents of an air conditioner unit in one apartment, and as you turn the page, you are shoved out into another resident’s apartment through the vents. I can’t help but feel like I’m complicit in what occurs in the book, like I, as the reader, am the darkness lurking in the building.
If you’re a new (or lapsed) reader, this is a perfect place to call home. Especially if you’re new to horror, I think this book would be a great place to dip your toe in. The horror here is one of atmosphere, not of shock or gore.
As an avid reader of single-issue comics, I’m often complaining that there are hardly any books that end in a way that makes me crave that next issue. Tenement has me by the throat, and I can’t wait for the next issue.