Review: Black Stars Above #1 (Vault Comics)

While almost all comic book publishers can boast an eclectic, varied range of comics to cover all genres, none appear to be quite so wide ranging as Vault Comics in the last year. From Post apocalyptic thrillers, to sci-fi comedies and coming of age tales, Vault seems to have done it all in 2019. This week, we look at one final Vault release from last year as we check out historical horror Black Stars Above #1 by Lonnie Nadle and Jenna Gha.

Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Jenna Gha (Illustrator), Brad Simpson (Colorist), Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou
Price: $3.99/£2.49 on Comixology

Black Stars Above follows Eulalie Dubois, a dutiful daughter who has spent her entire life tending to her family’s trap line,even at the cost of her own dreams. Now, as a storm descends on their homestead in the Winter of 1887, Eulalie is offered a chance at freedom when a mysterious man in the local town asks her to deliver an equally mysterious parcel to a nameless town north of the woods and the wilderness. However, little does Eulalie know, something sinister hides in those woods and it yearns for that which she carries.

With Black Stars Above, Lonnie Nadler’s story is a tale of two halves. The first half is very much a set up, as it sets the scene and builds up the world which Eulalie inhabits along with the day to day minutiae of her life. It’s here that Nadler appears to have taken great pains to ensure historical accuracy as scene by scene, from the hard lifestyle to the lack of choice Eulalie garners in some important decisions, feels incredibly accurate (at least based on this reviewers knowledge). Nadler also uses this time to really drive home Eulalie’s discontent with her lot in life and feeling of ‘imprisonment’.

However, it’s downside is that its pacing is very sluggish with the main thrust of the plot either not evident or not moving forwards at any pace. That said, the series’ plot does become more evident in the latter half and this is where you see a rather obvious change of tone. This is because once Eulalie reaches greater civilisation, Nadler seems to imbue a greater pace to proceedings as we quickly move from scene to scene before reaching the issue’s decidedly creepy cliffhanger.

Meanwhile, as the story descends into a more horror-esque story, the contributions from Jenna Gha (art) and Brad Simpson (Colours) seem to solidify this vibe with a visual style and matching colour palette which has a very haunting look. Reminiscent of equally cold (in terms of landscape) tales from David Derrick Jr’s Ghost of the Gulag and Lukasz Wnuczek’s The Owl Tribe, Gha and Simpson’s combined efforts are very in keeping with the cold, isolated nature of the story. In fact, there is very little wrong with the visuals save for the lettering which, while truly fitting of the Journal-esque internal monologue we receive from the lead character, the style of this cursive font is difficult to fully read (at least on this reviewers version.

Black Stars Above is a haunting title, both in its aesthetic and visual demeanour as well as in the story it is trying to share. While this issue does take a little bit of time to properly get going, by the end it seems compelling enough that fans of old school Gothic horror might want to see where this series goes (other than beyond the woods).