It’s the time of year when I remind people that I hate Halloween, fail to come up with a costume, make myself sick on candy corn (but just once), don’t get invited to any parties, hide in the dark from trick or treaters, and then eat the overflow candy that my co-workers bring into the office. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like creepiness. Cullen Bunn and Vanesa Del Rey’s The Empty Man has been quietly creeping me out for months now. If you’re getting in the Halloween mood, you might want to check out this series. If you can’t find the earlier issues, keep an eye out for a trade paperback later this year.
This panel sums up Del Rey’s art for this series:
It’s very shadowy, all the time. It’s relentlessly ominous. The heavy line work and shading are just caked on. There are always dark corners and doorways where something could be lurking. Monica Jensen is half of an investigative team that is the more even-keeled, procedural part of a supernatural story Jensen and Langford are the good guys, the science-minded sane people. But Jensen can’t trust her mind or her sight, and she’s not sure she can trust her partner either. As Langford says, “We’re all a little sick.”
What is the empty man? A disease, contagious insanity, a god, an alien invasion? Nobody knows what it is or how it started. The empty man starts out as the empty space at the center of the story, defined by the mayhem it leaves behind as well as by what’s sprung up around it—the multi-agency government task force, a mega-church, and dozens of cults. The empty man starts as a psychological horror that makes you see and do terrible things.
The things Bunn comes up with are the sort of nightmare items that are hideous while you’re dreaming, but sound ridiculous once you’re awake. For instance, a woman who suffocates herself in a kitty litter box because she hears a voice talking to her from it. A hand reaching out of a woman’s purse as she walks to her car in a dark parking garage. Del Rey’s style works well for these surreal horrors, maybe because of the brushiness of her art. She partly obscures her own illustrations with shadows, and lets your imagination fill in the blanks. Bunn writes in a dry, reportorial style– when he wants you to know that a man died of malnutrition after becoming physically fused to his sofa, he tells it in the style of a police report. Just the facts, ma’am.
Over the course of the series, the empty man has somehow morphed from a sort of psychosis into a physical monster that could wind up on the hood of your car.
IT IS SO SCARY!!!!
I don’t know why it is, but when things are dark and no one trusts each other, sometimes horror will keep you warm.
This is the fourth of six issues, so we are running out of time to find out what the empty man is, locate the sequestered patient zero, recover some missing children at the center of the case, and vanquish an evil preacher. Jensen and Langford already seem to be on their last legs, so things could get even uglier.