There are three things a horror franchise needs: a haunting location, creative ways of dispatching with innocent victims, and a mysterious, creepy, insane, yet articulate psychopath. There is no one with better pedigree than Darren Lynn Bousman, director of the SAW films, who provided the source material for Abattoir. Seeing as how SAW 3D is the final chapter in the psychological-torture-gore genre, Abattoir may be looking to become the next big franchise.
Does Abattoir offer a creepy location? Look no further than the name of series: ‘abattoir’ is French for “slaughterhouse”. And where would this slaughterhouse be? Of course, an average home in Middle America, just so you get the feeling that this could happen to you. Are victims killed creatively? Does being wacked by a weed-wacker count? And the creepy conductor of chaos in Abattoir? Mr. Jebediah Crone, an old man with a passion for homes where people have been killed, fits the bill to a tee.
Set in the 1980’s, Abattoir begins innocently enough – a child’s birthday party and the common concerns associated with such a gathering of family and neighbors. In a sudden flash, a weed-wacker makes an unexpected appearance, severing fingers, shredding appendages, and ending the lives of all the party-goers young and old. Enter Richard Ashwalt, a realtor assigned the tasks of selling the house in which the grizzly massacre occurred. Ashwalt has a conflicted life, trying to hold together an unstable marriage, raising a bright daughter, and trying to make ends meet in the economically-weak 1980’s in middle America. During a late-night viewing of the house, Ashwalt meets Mr. Crone, a man eager to take the property off Ashwalt’s hands though avoiding all the legal channels. Ashwalt rejects Mr. Crone offer and soon begins to experience some difficulties – one of which is becoming a ‘person of interest’ in a crime committed in a neighboring town. Ashwalt’s boss, a gentleman eerily reminiscent of Gary Cole (the manager from Office Space) tells Ashwalt about a realty myth concerning a ‘bogeyman’ who buys houses where people have been killed. Though Ashwalt tries unsuccessfully to reach Mr. Crone despite his misgivings, he is especially surprised to discover Mr. Crone has made himself comfortable in his own home at the conclusion of the issue. Shiver. We still have to look forward to what Mr. Crone ultimately wants to do with these homes and how this will affect Ashwalt.
Writers, Rob Levin and Troy Peteri lay down a strong foundation for a slow-boiling plot, simmering with tension and suspense. Hopefully, the pace will pick up a bit in the next chapters now that many plot elements have been introduced. Illustrator Bing Cansino does a respectable job setting the tone with shadowy appearances, misty edges and a dull color palette which makes you feel like you are intruding on a hazy and unwelcome memory. Abattoir has the potential for a franchise, as Mr. Crone makes his way from town to town collecting the memories of bygone massacres and sowing the seeds for future fatality. With five more issues to go, it’s anyone’s guess how this one will turn out but a betting man might wager, “Not good for Richard Ashwalt!”
As a point of clarification to the cover rating not addressed in the piece. Cover artist Tai Young Choi missed the mark somewhat resulting in the 6/10 rating. Mr Crone comes across as a bit of a “hick-clown,” too buck-toothed and clown-haired in the cover. That is not the feel of the character inside. The draw for Abattoir is the odd title which might make some curious. And to make the name more salient, the background of the cover is the better focus. There were not-so-subtle hints such as the axeman silhouette on the second story (maybe a little less lighting there).
Since Crone is the person interested in the property, maybe if he appeared to be entering the house, looking over his shoulder and handing his card to us…? Or maybe Crone could have been smaller, stepping out of the shadows of the staircase handing us his card. Or maybe the same size depiction of Crone at the front of the house with creepy closed doors behind him. In sum, the cover felt busy; focus on Crone or interiors, but not both… Lastly, his hat should be off because he is indoors (he seems respectful in that way). The quality of the art is very high, it just misses the mark on interpretation and focus.