A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1
Garth Ennis (Writer), Goran Sudzuka (Artist), Ive Svorcina (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
November 28, 2018
Gentle spoilers below.
When A Walk Through Hell #1 (Garth Ennis, Goran Sudžuka) was released back in June, my excitement for a modern horror comic quickly turned to half-hearted hopes. Maybe the following issues would redeem the lackluster “hardened FBI agent who has seen things” story line. I am here to tell you: they did not.
The story opens with two special agents, Shaw and McGregor, as they enter a warehouse in search of two of their fellow agents. Local cops have already entered and returned from the warehouse after having their minds messed up by unseen horrors. None of those cops survive the night.
As the story arc continues, the line between the logical and supernatural continues to blur. Agents Shaw and McGregor wake up in the warehouse, neither sporting a pulse. So starts the logical FBI agents coming to terms with a potentially supernatural situation. The parading of tropes doesn’t stop there. There’s something bad happening, or has already happened, to children and of course pedophiles enter the fray. Nothing says horror like possible sexual violence against children. Side note: aren’t we over this kind of horror yet? Finally, add a dash of unreliable narrator and “we make our own hell” to the picture before things get really muddled.
For some reason, writer Garth Ennis relies on heavy flashbacks, and it mangles the timeline. At points, it’s difficult to say if the agents are still working the same case, how long it’s been since the original case, or—touting another worn trope—if their current situation places them in a revenge fantasy. Throughout these flashbacks, little of note happens in the warehouse itself. You know, the creepy part of this horror story where are protagonists are trapped.
For added flavor, tossed alongside the flashbacks are snippets of social commentary. Topics include social media, sexism, and racism using Agent Shaw (female), Agent McGregor (gay), their FBI director (a woman of color), and their mainly white male colleagues as staging. For example, there’s a scene where Shaw and McGregor are eating in a diner and McGregor’s recounting for her about how one of their colleagues uses a derogatory word for gay folks and tried laugh it off. Or how McGregor brings up his frustration about the president, presumably a Trump-like figure. These “insights” is a one-off that doesn’t tie into any other plotline and doesn’t add anything to an already convoluted story. I want to see more diversity in my comics and the diversity in this book is commendable. The addition of forced social justice commentary does no one any favors.
The saving grace of issue #1 were the moments of psychological terror. To my dismay, they have been replaced with horror scenes to mixed affect. I give credit for unique imagery, but they are few and far between. Often, they are left as background dressing after the shock value has worn off.
A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1 is a messy slog of storytelling. Around the halfway point, I started yelling, “the payoff better be good.” Of course, the kicker is that the end of the first volume wraps exactly zero plot lines. No resolution; just the potential promise of more hell.