Review: Mountainhead #1 (IDW Publishing)

The latest creator owned title from IDW (along with books like Wailing Blade and Road of Bones) Mountainhead sees a father and son burglary team get a bit more than they bargained for when they break into the wrong house.

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Ryan Lee
Price: £2.49 from ComiXology

Abraham Stubbs and his dad Noah are a pair of father and son burglars – complete with Home Alone style balaclavas. However all is not well with Noah and the life of being on the run and living in motel rooms is playing with his mind. He is becoming paranoid and seeing monsters, which leads to him getting sloppy. When a simple job goes wrong and they get busted, Noah gets shot and when in custody, Abraham learns a secret about himself which sees him taken off to live in Canada and a whole new strand of the story evolves (which we won’t spoil here), yet suffice to say, the monsters and madness continue to follow him.

Mountainhead is one of those books which is hard to categorise. It is probably best described as a horror, and the opening page featuring a dismembered corpse would certainly back that up. However, this isn’t a gore and monsters book. Instead it has is that kind of creepy unsettling horror built around secrets, that makes you question everyone’s motives and actions. There’s shades of American Gods or Insomnia in the way that the story revolves around a small town with a big secret, and a family with a dark past, which makes it more horrific than the monsters in Abraham’s mind.

This is the kind horror that really sticks with you as it’s the horror of the unknown. The world of Mountainhead feels unlike anything we’ve read in a while, as the story twists and turns in unexpected directions. What starts as a simple crime caper, becomes a small town mystery by the end, but with a supernatural undercurrent that will keep have you wondering what is going on well after you have finished the final page.

The artwork from Ryan Lee is also particularly dark and twisted. The scratchy detail and angular lines give it a twisted sense of style, and it has that kind of darkness that the best of Greg Capullo has. But it also has that expressive weirdness of Mark Stafford’s Lip Hook or Random Trials’ Dean Beattie, which helps make the more horrific moments even more unsettling as they are both creepy and outlandish in equal measure. The characters all have this angular creepiness to them, and people like the old man who finds them burgling his house or the mountain man in the final third, are particularly memorable for their grotesqueness. While Abraham himself feels like an down and out version of Kick Ass with his hair poking out from his balaclava.

There is a lot going on in this first issue and there are probably a few too many open ends for our liking by the final page and there is perhaps one idea too many or 10 pages too few for it to really hit home what this series is all about. What feels like a sub plot involving ‘mountain madness’, a doomed climbing trip and monsters in Abraham’s head feel like they are the primary core of the book (and a link to the title) yet they are pushed into the background as this issue is all about introducing us to Abraham and getting him to Canada.

However, this is a debut that is packed full of promise and you can tell that in future issues they will come to the fore. Mountainhead has a ton of potential for the future and is definitely a book that is worth checking out as once we are a couple of issues in (or have a trade to really get our teeth into) then this be something really unsettlingly good.