The Empty Man #1 (of 6)
Created and Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Vanesa R. Del Rey
Colors by Michael Garland
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Review by Joey Braccino
Like the best of the best horror stories, The Empty Man #1is deliberate, eerie, and chilling from start to finish. Cullen Bunn (of The Sixth Gun and Magneto fame) takes his time walking us through the first few scenes of what promises to be a riveting, thought-provoking thriller.
We open on a flashback to a religious revival meeting of sorts set in a converted gas station in Arkansas. The pastor, Reverend Markoff, speaks of healing and faith before a small congregation of veiled women, vacant children, and men in overalls. A bizarre sigil graces the back wall and the bible—a trio of overlapping triangles pointed downwards—and there is a sinister sense of foreboding throughout. Jump forward five years and a brutal, mysterious “disease” called The Empty Man has plagued and terrified the country. Special Agents Jensen and Langford of the FBI-CDC are investigating the latest incident (shown in gory, suggestive detail in a terrifying quick-cut of panels). Langford serves as a our narrator, detailing the history of the disease and providing some insight on just how uneasy the country has become in the aftermath of the incidents.
The Empty Man #1 is filled with brilliant sequence after brilliant sequence, as there is nothing specifically suggestive of terror or malevolence, but rather there is an increasing sense of… well, for lack of a better term, “creepiness” that seeps into every page. Some of this is due to Bunn’s sparse dialogue and narration throughout Langford and Jensen’s interviews with the neighbors of the recent Empty Man victims. The series of single-panel interactions feature few words, but speak volumes to the fear and dread haunting the community. The final sequence—an interrogation of a fringe extremist—is full of loaded philosophical and religious language that, paired with Langford’s narration, builds to the chilling final page.
Still, even with Bunn’s deft writing, The Empty Man owes much to Vanesa R. Del Rey’s moody, shadowy, slightly-askew artwork. For the most part, Del Rey ascribes to a naturalism that perfectly accentuates the brutality in a seemingly ordinary world, akin to other procedural dramas like Law & Order or Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And yet, there is a bit of surrealism, a slight wavering in Del Rey’s linework that anticipates the fantastical, creepy underbelly of The Empty Man virus.
Buy. Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey do horror right in BOOM! Studios’ latest mini-series, The Empty Man. A chilling procedural, The Empty Man #1 is the perfect start to what promises to be an disturbing genre experience. Check it!