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Clowntown #1 – Review

By: Kevin LaPorte (writer & letterer) & Amanda Rachels (artist & colorist)

The Stories: Clowns on a murderous rampage.

Review: There are probably two types of people in the world: Those who think clowns are funny and those who think they’re kinda creepy.  Given how frequently clowns have turned up in horror stories over the years, there are obviously quite a few people in the latter camp.

If you’re a fan of the horror/slasher genre (and particularly the clown horror sub-genre), you’ll probably get quite a kick out of Clowntown from Inverse Press.  The story does have a twist at the end, but the plot is pretty basic: clowns on a rampage killing people.  Now, what makes it unique and effective horror is that the comic isn’t pulling any punches.  In the first real scene of the comic, the clowns bust into a house and attack a nasty, redneck couple.  As a reader, you don’t really know what to expect: “Maybe the clowns will take them hostage???”  Nope, the clowns go straight for the throat-slitting.  It isn’t shown in a way that is exploitive with arterial blood spurting across the page. In fact, the actual cutting kinda happens off panel.  But, there is no doubt after this first scene that the clowns will kill you and they won’t waste a lot of time with monologues or explaining their motives.  In fact, the clowns are mostly non-verbal uttering nothing but stylized word balloons that contain sounds more than words.

The comic just kinda runs from there as we follow the clowns’ rampage and a young girl that is caught up in the middle of the mayhem.  But, the creators are to be commended for having a pretty simple and pure concept for their comic.  That’s really important with an truly indie comic like Clowntown where the creators have to not only grab your attention with issue #1 and make you want issue #2, but also give you a pretty complete package in the first issue.  Given the economics of creating comics, it can be a long time before issue #2 comes our (if it ever does).  With Clowntown #1, we definitely want a second issue, but they haven’t created that desire by giving us a first issue that feels incomplete.

Artistically the comic is really nice.  I actually became aware of Clowntown having met Amanda Rachels at HeroesCon 2011 (where she did this nice Emma Frost for me), so I knew that she could draw and could work in the slightly cartoony style that I enjoy, but Clowntown shows that she can really handle sequential storytelling too.  She makes very good use of establishing shots to clarify the action and her slightly cartoony style actually works better than I thought it would for this subject matter.  Because her work is slightly cartoony, it allows her to get closer to the brutal side of horror without the effect being too much.  For example, if you had a more visceral indie artist (say, Toby Cypress) illustrate this same subject matter it might kick ass, but it also would run the risk of being too violent to appeal to many readers.  Rachels also handles the coloring duties and while the colors aren’t flat, they are pretty close to it.  She adds a little bit of surface shading to the colors, but keeps it to a minimum and uses it effectively whereas many full-time colorists screw shading up.  She obviously spent a lot of time on getting the colors right.

Conclusion: All in all, this comic was a treat.  It isn’t a perfect comic, but it has a compelling story and nice art.  If you’re looking for a little more horror in your comic diet, you should definitely check it out.  It’s also well worth supporting new creators who are actually creating comics rather than just talking about how they’d like to create comics.

Grade: B

- Dean Stell

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