The Shadows of Salamanca
Regular blog readers know that I’m not a fan of horror. (I’m terribly squeamish and identify too sympathetically with victims.) However, thanks to the wonder of a review copy, I found myself appreciating The Shadows of Salamanca more than I expected.
It’s fun to see how Europeans incorporate American culture into their works, and here, it’s the creepy small town with a secret. Writer Christophe Bec and artist Stefano Raffaele present the story of Sarah and David. They’ve left the big city for a home in the woods, to help Sarah deal with her depression. They’re hoping for a fresh start, but since there are monsters in the various tunnels underneath the old mining town, that’s unlikely.
The art is lovely, detailed and complex in building a portrait of these characters and setting. The pages tend to have many more panels than is typical of American comics, with a dozen not unusual. These image slivers more effectively set the mood and build suspense, providing details that add up to a more creepy atmosphere.
That’s not just external, coming from the animals, but internal. Sarah and David no longer trust each other and are fragile, tip-toeing around their interactions. Sarah’s hearing voices, a split personality as a way of dealing with childhood trauma, and a place where she’s shunned as a newcomer doesn’t help her loneliness. Then she finds something in the basement…
The overall theme is what we do for, and to, children. It all spirals down from there, weaving together a number of horror conventions — something happening in one’s home, the creepy neighbors who decorate their cabin with animal skulls, a cursed ghost town, the monster in the woods, the child abuser and murderer, the town with a guilty secret, the evil monster child, country cannibalism — into a story I found effectively horrifying, all the more so because the art is so attractive. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)