Written by Steve Niles
Art by Alison Sampson, Stephane Paitreau, Aditya Bidikar, Jordie Bellaire
Backmatter by Caitlin Rose Boyle, Irene Strychalski, Sarah Horrocks, Casey Gilly
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: August 16th, 2017

When we last left the Winnebago (or, realistically, the Winnebago left us, and its family), Christie, Dan, and Bobby escaped the macabre carnival and went to seek help from a local town. their Winnebago gone, they are trapped and defenseless as the townsfolk transform from normal strangers to sinister enemies, with powerful magic and mysterious monsters in their midst.

This is the most action-oriented issue of this series so far, and the terrifying events are starting to unfold, after the first two issues slowly built suspense and intensity. Niles weaves bits of story in and out of the reality and action of the book, until suddenly we are trapped in a web of horror that is all-encompassing and inescapable. As Christie, Dan and Bobby are cornered and fight for their lives, we are trapped along with them, struggling to escape the nightmare Niles has been weaving silently all along. It is astounding how much terror can sneak into this book without noticing, and even more incredible how the individual bits and pieces are beginning to collide into one layered, eery tale.

Alison Sampson is truly meant for this book. In this issue especially, her architectural background shines though in the artistic choices. This is a lot of story to condense into a mini-series, and Sampson excels at creating an endless forward momentum through the art, which allows the story to fold in on itself and erupt into moments of understanding and terror. The panel layout, specifically, adds another layer of fluidity and sequential storytelling to the comic. Allowing images to escape the confines of the panels and tak eover the gutters, layering images in stark contrast over other panels, and experimenting with innovative shapes and design creates a fresh, exciting perspective.

The colors, as always, are spot on. The pinks and reds have always given this book a unique edge, but the stark contrast of deep blues and the light of the full moon in his issue is another level of amazing artistry. The cover is bright and surprising, with colors by Jordie Bellaire. An inviting cover  belies some horrific events in this issue, and the misleading contrast makes it all the more terrifying. Without spoilers, suffice to say there are some moments in this book that would be difficult for anyone to draw or color (or even imagine), and this team does a superb job of creating a disturbing sense of exaggerated realism and intensity.

As in previous issues, the back matter is intriguing and creative. The window into the creative process is captivating, and backup art by Caitlin Rose Boyle and Irene Strychalski adds an interesting outside perspective to the character designs. The inclusion of essays by Sarah Horrocks and Casey Gilly adds meat to the issue, and provides context for what seems like a very dark and twisty story. Reading the essays and then returning to the main storyline has me suspecting that there is more humanity than monster in this comic, and we have a lot to learn about the truth in Issue #4.

I am still having trouble believing that this story will fit into four issues. There are so many winding threads left writhing in the darkness, seeking their end. I expect that the finale issue will escalate in action and bring all the pieces together. This is not an easy read, but it is a refreshing swerve in the plot. the previous issues have focused on a slowly developing story focused on nuance and strategic suspense-building, but this issue brings an element of almost campy, graphic horror that sneaks into the story and comes at a complete surprise. I truly cannot wait for the final installment, though I am sure I will be sad to see this series come to an end.

The Verdict: 10/10


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