For many people, visiting childhood hangouts is a nostalgic experience. But for Ben of SONITUS #1, those memories are anything but comforting. Written by Cody Sousa and Dan Sheppard, with art by Cecilia Lo Valvo, SONITUS #1 is a supernatural thriller with mysteries abounding.

The three-part limited Alterna series follows a man who hears disembodied voices beckoning him back to an abandoned house where he and his friends once frequented. As he digs deeper, he must face painful memories and a creature that lurks just beneath the surface of the rickety shack- or perhaps his own mind?

Into the Woods

Admittedly, I went into this comic without any idea what would lie before me. However, I loved the title and cover art, so I was eager to give it a shot.

SONITUS #1 effectively immerses the reader into the setting, which is definitely its strongest aspect. The first page thrusts us into a darkened forest with shadow-washed trees. Our main character steps over roots and pushes through overgrown grass. A decrepit, abandoned house looms in the distance. But as creepy as the house is, it’s nothing compared to the land itself.

Ben explains that the land itself wouldn’t “allow” the city to bulldoze the shack. Immediately I could feel that something was lurking. By personifying the mud and grass beneath the house in this way, the writers imply that there are more sinister forces at work here than meet the eye. We don’t know much about the characters or the protagonist himself at the moment. And yet the tone and world building is strong from the get-go.

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Ben continues to explain the house’s significance to his own life. As kids, he and his friends would hang out in the rickety home to get away from their parents. But now the house lies desolate as ever, though bottles and paint splatters show the life that used to be there.

We learn that Ben also experiences tinnitus, a constant ringing or buzzing in the ear that only the affected person can hear. At least, that’s what the doctors tell him. However, the noise always flares up whenever he’s in town or close to the house in the woods.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

Capturing the Darkness

In the first issue, we don’t know many specifics when it comes to Ben’s past conflicts. Still, there’s a lot of amazing and unsettling imagery. Cecilia Lo Valvo’s style consists of thick, scratchy black lines that feel dynamic yet solid. The contrast between color and shadow is intense and sharp. And the palette of neutral yellows, swamp greens, and cool grays is limited, occasionally more vibrant to show memories.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

The panel layout on each page is also quite interesting and varied. The illustrations take up whole pages, overlap, and bleed through borders. This variance gives the comic a movie-like feeling. Wide-shots and close-ups help you learn more about the world from the main character’s perspective

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But the story starts to heat up when we see a Cthulhu-like creature with way too many eyes. Surrounding Ben are jagged panels filled with the creature’s ugly mug. Ben screams from the intensity of the sound in his head (and probably from general fear). We only get a clear view of the monster a few pages later, which makes its immensity that much more jarring. But just as quickly as it appears, it’s gone, making me wonder if this “guardian” is something more than flesh and blood.

Blast From the Past

One of the most interesting parts of SONITUS #1 is its use of memories. Ben sees a bright red sneaker, which immediately takes him back to his teenage years. Though the memories don’t have text, they convey many nuanced emotions in quick succession. Each panel shows a brief glimpse of (assumedly) Ben’s past, with friends long gone. A party, an argument, rain pouring down, and a kiss flash by. The solid panel borders dissolve, and the art bleeds out into the margins. This composition really captures how a simple object can trigger vivid memories.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

Ben states that he wants to face his fears instead of running from them forever. These vignettes only scratch the surface of those fears. I’m interested in learning more about the unnamed friends and whether they’re even still alive. Perhaps the falling-out that we see in the memories has something to do with the house’s dark roots.

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Final Thoughts on SONITUS #1

Overall, SONITUS #1 is a great introduction to a mysterious series. The writers don’t dwell on exposition, only including the most important details of the story. This issue lends itself to intense theorizing, so who knows what will happen next?

As a three-issue series, the illustrations and text have to do a lot of heavy-lifting, which they certainly pull off. Currently, most of the storytelling relies on narration to give the reader essential information. You can tell that the story is pretty complex.

After all, we have supernatural elements and snapshots of incomplete memories scattered throughout. I’m a bit worried that the creators won’t be able to fit the story they want into three smaller issues. However, from what I’ve seen so far, I have faith that they can create a nuanced story even with the minimal page count.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

Get SONITUS #1 February 21st online or at your local comic shop!

SONITUS #1 by Cody Sousa, Dan Sheppard, and Cecilia Lo Valvo
SONITUS #1 doesn't give away much in the title, but diving in is the best way to read. The gritty art, living setting, and vague memories pull the reader in for a story that reaches far beyond the pages.
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