Review – Bone Parish Volume 1
Publisher – Boom! Studios
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Illustrations: Jonas Scharf
Colors: Alex Guimaraes
Release Date: May 2019
What do you get when you create a crime series and then give it a bit of an occult twist? Well, you get Bone Parish, that’s what. Written by Cullen Bunn and published by Boom! Studios, Bone Parish has been described as a ‘chilling necromantic horror story’. As someone who kind of adores the horror genre, Bone Parish Volume 1 certainly provided me with an interesting read.
The main premise of the story focuses on a new designer drug known as ‘Ash’ being peddled on the streets of New Orleans. Created from the remains of literal dead people, Ash offers its users a completely new experience; You can relive the memories and lives of the person you have just ingested. The drug’s popularity has led to complicated supply problems and warring families who want in on the action.
At the centre of it all is the Winters family, the masterminds behind the creation and distribution of the drug. Overseen by matriarch Grace, who has conversations with her dead husband, the rest is run by her children. Tensions rise between the family with each wanting more recognition, but they will have to work together to make sure that their product remains within the family.
The premise alone is intriguing and this first volume focuses more on the crime aspects than the horror. Each member has their own role in the business and gets their own backstory. Focusing the story on the family humanizes a macabre story, but it risks falling into your standard crime drama. For such an interesting premise, the family drama becomes the duller parts.
Where the writing really does get interesting, is when it focuses on the effects of the ash itself; It takes its users on a hallucinogenic trip into another person’s life. Anyone can dissociate themselves from their mundane lives and become anyone else at the price of their low moral compass. Near the end of the volume, we also see the ash being used as chemical warfare. It is also shown that customers can choose what bodies they would like turned into Ash. These ideas alone post interesting moral questions. While this is only the first volume, which sets the story, I would have liked to see this further explored.
With a darker colour palette, the artwork certainly matches the tone of the series. Illustrated by Jonas Scharf and with the colours provided by Alex Guimaraes, they have managed to capture the darker elements of the story that are featured in the plot. In particular, I really adored Guimaraes approach to colouring, which switches between muted and dull tones for the mundane everyday life, to bright and colourful hallucinogenic dream-like sequences when using the ash. It’s an incredibly interesting juxtaposition and I think it certainly works well.
All in all, Bone Parish Volume 1 is certainly an interesting read. It plays into multiple genres, so if you are looking for a straight-up horror, then this is not it. Instead, the story is more focused on laying the groundwork for future instalments rather than full horror at the moment. While I am not officially sold right now, there are some larger ideas and elements that have the potential to really make Bone Parish really interesting. If you are interested in a slow-burn crime drama with a macabre twist, then this may be for you.
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