March 2, 2017

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Horrors in the Night in Gabriel Hardman's The Belfry

 

For Gabriel Hardman, his artwork lives to perform for his stories. From books like his and Corinna Bechko’s Invisible Republic, Planet of the Apes and Star Wars Legacy to his own solo project Kinski (reviewed by Rob here), Hardman’s art does what required of it to really tell the stories he’s working on. Whether it’s the high fantasy of his PotA or Star Wars books or the gritty, grounded realism of Invisible Republic or even the naturalistic swagger of Kinski, Hardman shifts his visual approach to storytelling to fit and even to create unique tones and beats to his stories. The Belfry, his newest one-shot horror story from Image Comics, presents these dark images of a world eternally cloaked in shadow and darkness that’s broken up by these bold, white gutters. Those large gutters frame this story as these horrific moments where the world we know gets ripped away and gutted in front of our eyes.


The story feels like old-fashioned comic book horror, full of injury-to-the-eye images and monstrous body transformation. After a plane crashes in some kind of jungle or forest, the survivors are attacked and captured by vampiric creatures. Hardman’s writing is tense and focused. There’s not a lot of development here of any of the characters because his story is more about the happenings and not about who they’re happening to. By being so driven by its plot progression, The Belfry is a creepy tale of a monstrous night.


One of Hardman’s greatest strengths as an image maker has been his ability to craft both light and shadow. Existing almost purely in the shadows, The Belfry’s art places the reader in the same level of understanding as the characters. We don’t know anything more about what’s happening than the downed planes’ survivors do. Hardman’s drawings reveal just enough about what’s happening in the here-and-now of The Belfry without ever really explaining the whys and wherefores of the story. The art’s focus on the present moment forges our connection to the horror that Hardman is forming out of those shadows.

The Belfry is a nearly perfect little horror gem of a comic.