WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD is a new limited series from Image Comics. Created and written by horror writer Steve Niles, the series features art by Alison Sampson. It also features colors by Stéphane Paitreau and lettering by Aditya Bidikar. WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 follows a family of three as they take a road trip in their Winnebago. Things begin to veer towards the unexpected when the family stops at a run-down carnival. Sounds like their family vacation is going to end well, right?

I won’t mince words: WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 is brilliant. Steve Niles has created a comic for both horror newbies and hardcore fans by engaging his audience on two different levels. He presents a compelling story but also a referential comic that examines the horror genre as a whole.

Courtesy of Image Comics

A Love Letter to Horror

Admittedly, the premise of WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD is derivative, but that’s kinda the point. WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 reads like an ode to the horror films of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s clear that classics like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES have inspired this project. In fact, WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 contains an essay that discusses NEAR DARK, a 1987 horror film set in the Midwest.

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The characters of WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD are as thoughtfully trite as the comic’s premise. Bobby is the aloof child, preoccupied with his phone while Dan is the stepfather, desperately trying to connect with his stepson. And Christie, the mother, is just trying to keep the two from killing each other. The characters are painfully bland, and Niles knows we’re going to take pleasure in watching them unravel.

Alison Sampson’s art also strongly reflects the influence of horror films. The entire comic has a cinematic feel to it thanks to her visuals. The details are important in WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD, with as much attention paid to rendering the Midwestern settings as is paid to the characters. Like a skilled director, Sampson uses her art to visually foreshadow the fate that awaits the family. Stéphane Paitreau’s colors, specifically his contrasting use of blues and reds throughout the comic, create an unnerving aura and compliment the beautiful yet terrifying quality of Sampson’s work. Overall, their collaborative effort creates a tone for WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD that is equal parts atmospheric and Americana.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Obviously Satanists Did It

Like its influences, WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD does not shy away from violence. The opening is dark and visceral, both literally and figuratively. Although it’s not explicitly clear how the opening of WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 relates back to the plot, this shocking first scene successfully sets a sinister tone for the family’s road trip.

This first scene also introduces what may be an overarching theme for the entire series. The opening text laments our ability to externalize evil. This may seem ironic given the violent scene unfolding. However, to horror fans, this will make perfect sense.

Courtesy of Image Comics

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 contains strong allusions to Satanic cult activity. I mean, just look at that cover. We have a goat-like creature, people in robes, and a pentagram. However, there is a deeper layer of meaning here that not every reader will pick up on. Given the graphic quality of the cover and the robed figure looming over the entire scene, it’s evident that this layout is reminiscent of a certain 1972 TIME MAGAZINE cover.

READ: Want to know more about actual Satanists? We’ve got you covered!

Despite WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1’s occult opening, the creators acknowledge that this take on Satanism is purely fictional. The end of the issue contains an essay on LeVayan Satanism, which resembles a punk take on humanism more than it does actual devil worship. Armed with this knowledge, it’s clear how this scapegoating relates back to the opening lines of WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1.

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 Doesn’t Underestimate Its Audience

All great horror contains something beyond the gore, some kind of commentary on society and human nature. WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD is more meta than that. It’s a reflection on how exactly horror effectively achieves this. Above all else, it’s clear that Steve Niles highly respects his readers. The audience is provided with top notch art and coloring courtesy of Sampson and Paitreau. Ultimately, the creators of WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD know that horror fans are intelligent people and treat them as such.

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 brilliantly engages both horror newbies and genre fanatics. It does so by presenting a compelling narrative with gorgeous art, while simultaneously playing homage to the genre as a whole.
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