cover image Dwellings


Jay Stephens. Oni, $34.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63715-291-1

In the faux-serious introduction to this addictively squirmy collection of linked comics, Stephens (Land of Nod) claims the “tainted” town of Elwich has “more hauntings per capita than any other place in Ontario.” Drawn in the disarmingly perky style of an old Disney comic, where all the characters have adorably big eyes and plucky attitudes, the comics jump from one gory, blood-drenched terror to the next. In the first entry, a teenager accosted by a man claiming the 19-year-old sold his brother out to the police nonchalantly kills the man with a rock (then pops his earbuds back in and strolls off), only to eventually find a gruesome vengeance that will put readers in mind of an Edgar Allan Poe story. In the volume’s other tales, a crook goes on a killing spree before ending up in a torture chamber, an obnoxious influencer gets more than he bargained for when he opens a haunted house, a demonic cult sacrifices a child, and a cursed hand puppet causes mayhem. Though the pacing is zippy and the tone verges on tongue-in-cheek (retro-comics interstitials advertise a “Baby-AK 47 Kid-Lashnikov” and a “Memento Mori Funhouse”), the layering of dread is surprisingly effective. Stephens threads in recurring characters and Elwich lore, rendering a believably cursed hellscape. It’s the kind of nightmare horror fans won’t want to wake up from. (Apr.)