(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Vanesa R. Del Rey
Colors by Michael Garland
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
By page nine I was saying to myself…”What the f@#k is going on here?” And that’s what we’ve come to expect, no to depend upon, when reading a Cullen Bunn comic book.
Bunn (The Sixth Gun) brings his own spin on a horror/contagion comic with The Empty Man, a new series from Boom! Studios. It’s a crazy spin on contagion, and the insanity that can surround it. But what happens when insanity is the disease?
We’re following two agents, both members of a task force that are investigating the newest craze in death, the Empty Man, a disease that, among other things, makes you crazy before it kills you. Jensen and Langford are our touch points, agents with no clue to follow in this mystery, only a string of corpses and signs that point to the Empty Man as being the cause.
This is the perfect way to begin. Bunn has two agents, supposed masters of their craft, with the backing of the almighty U.S. government behind them, and they are wandering lost when it comes to this disease. He also introduces the religious element, or perhaps a cultish one, with the Reverend Markham and a group of people who see the Empty Man as a god, something to be sought after. It shows a good perception of how disease, especially one we can’t fathom, is looked upon in this age of scientific enlightenment. If we can’t figure it out, who can? What else could it be but an act of God? What a great hook that is as well, The Empty Man…there’s nothing like coining an awesomely common couple of words, stringing them together and making them sinister…it’s writerly perfection when something like that happens.
Vanesa R. Del Rey (Hit, Creepy) has a pulpy style to her art that adds to the story. The creepy stuff that Bunn writes into the script is only accentuated by Del Rey’s art. It’s enough to make you squirm a little, to make you want to look away. There’s a panel that is a close-up of a woman’s face in horror, and I almost found myself looking for the individual dots from the printer. (Though of course there were none.) There’s a lot of movement in her work, from the loose lines to the dramatic angles, the upshots and close-ups that make this a very dramatic book to read.
The combination of Del Rey and Bunn is a lethal one, almost as lethal as the Empty Man. If you’re looking for horror books, or disease-y books, than this is for you. If you’re looking for something to make you cringe, art that will move you in disturbing ways…here you go. Congratulation Mr. Bunn, Ms. Del Rey, this book will infect the comic reading populace. And just for the record, as I reached the end of The Empty Man, as I pulled that last page into view, I was completely thinking… “What the f@*k is going on?”
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.