Brooklyn, New York cartoonist Sean Ford creates horror comics that yield a nostalgic kind of discomfort, at least for me. The collected Only Skin had me reflecting on my youth a bit for PopMatters — Ford’s forest in the book, which becomes increasingly important to the “small town/ghosts and disappearing locals”-type of narrative (if there is such a thing) as it moves forward, reminded me of the wooded area near my parents’ house, where I spent lots of summer days and alternately spent absolutely no summer nights, opting instead to hurry past its leafy border than to enter after sundown. “I grew up near what I felt like was a huge and terrifying forest, that was in reality not scary at all,” Ford told The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon in 2012 when he explained the setting for Only Skin. The artist’s well-crafted array of towering trees on the edge of town played a significant part in his book, serving as a both frightening and playful locale for Ford’s main characters.
There is some dark humor (a very minimal amount) to Only Skin, which seems to have returned in the equally mysterious “Shadow Hills,” Ford’s newest black and white small town-based mini comic. The details are intricate, framed in thin lines, and all five and a half by seven inches of white space proves really striking when Ford blacks out the backdrop completely or washes it out with textured grey brush strokes. A precise behind-the-diner counter perspective is complete with slim, uniform water glasses stacked carefully along the angular ridges of the counter’s interior. Story-wise, there’s already a compelling layer to “Shadow Hills,” even it its first two issues — a dizzy, mute child wandering into the town for which Ford’s book is named, jittery locals gulping coffee at their lunch spot and muttering about local oil drilling activity, and of course, the palpable supernatural undercurrent that’s pushed a bit closer to the surface as the second issue comes to a close. Check out the first installment here.