Scout Comics’ Black Caravan imprint has seemingly appeared from nowhere in the last year, releasing various horror titles for its better known sibling. Now, publisher Joseph Schmalke puts his own creative chips on the table with the first issue of We Don’t Kill Spiders, a historical, supernatural thriller about a viking trying to stop killings by a monstrous force.
Publisher: Scout Comics/Black Caravan
Writer: Joseph Schmalke
Artist: Joseph Schmalke, DC Hopkins (Letters)
Price: TBS from ComiXology
We Don’t Kill Spiders follows the story of Bjorn, a viking warrior with little love or faith for his people’s Norse religion. When he is summoned by Ulk, the Jarl of the neighbouring settlement, to exact justice on an outcast witch for the murders of five families, Bjorn counteroffers to confirm who the murderer is and give them the justice Ulk seeks. So Bjorn begins his investigation into these killings, even going so far as to recruit Revna, the witch he was warned of, to assist him. But is Bjorn’s beliefs in Revna’s talents misplaced or will it lead him to learn of a greater evil being responsible for these crimes?
Joseph Schmalke has written a deeply intriguing story with this story, a supernatural, historical crime thriller which is full of mystery from the beginning. The plot feels like a cross between a police thriller like Seven and the Witcher. Its slow burn pacing, while not action packed, feels very atmospheric. In conjunction with this, Bjorn is written as something of a Norse CSI, whereby he maintains a healthy level of skepticism for anything he doesn’t directly see, although he does seem to place a large amount of trust in Revna upon meeting her. In fact, this is but one of a number of questions which this first issue brings to mind as the intrigue behind what is going on only increases, especially after the unveiling of the unexpected cliffhanger.
As for the art, Schmalke’s style in this issue really suits the world in which he is building, with a rough, weathered look which is reminiscent of other comics set in this period such as Asa Wheatley’s Sagas of the Shield Maiden and Ryan K. Lindsay’s Eternal. However, what separates this from them is the colours because, while much of the colouring is natural, cold colours like brown and white, Schmalke also uses louder, more horror-esque colours which looks similar to Francesco Francavilla and Rosie Alexander’s work at respective moments.
We Don’t Kill Spiders #1 is a captivating and intriguing read as Joesph Schmalke leaves readers with a lot of questions which need answering in this fantastically atmospheric world he has drawn. This first issue has done it right by wanting me to need to know what happens next and if the rest of the series follows suit, this will be one Hela of a mystery.