THE SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED #4
This issue begins within a nightmare of Cesar, Caligari’s near-mute assistant, in which the school’s inhabitants have been brutally killed and one by one he encounters their variously bloated, burned and bloody corpses. As he is stalked by a silent assassin in a monochrome outfit with a shadowy cowl making him look like some kind of supervillain, the lack of any speech or other audible cues allow us to feel Cesar’s isolated terror, while the irregular panel shapes and angular framing reflect the Expressionist aesthetic of the film in which he originated.
In the real world, school dickhead Jean is given a satisfying lesson in humility by Orlock, utilising a restrained and precise display of dominance by breaking the younger vampire’s nose with his cane before slowly slicing open a stitched scar on Jean’s face with the razor-sharp talon of a thumbnail.
Elsewhere, the Nazi plotline slowly develops with Caligari, Medusa and Moloch making their way to Berlin, the look of gleeful malice on the demon boy’s face promising much fire and carnage to come. The sweet but slightly awkward relationship developing between Connor and Jenny takes a turn on a moonlit cliff top, one beautiful panel showing them against the silver light gleaming on the ocean, both entirely in silhouette except for the white streak in Jenny’s hair.
While The School of the Damned is first and foremost a horror comic, it’s the attention paid to developing its large ensemble cast in comparatively short spaces of time that make it an engaging and addictive read. We’re often granted personal insights into a character with little more than a facial expression or silent action performed out of the way of the prying and judging eyes of others, and it’s precisely the fascination generated about what drives them that will keep you coming back for more.
INFO: AUTHOR: JOHN FARMAN / ARTIST: JASON MATHIS / PUBLISHER: VITAL PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW