Apparently, “cremainlining” is a thing. Well, it’s sort of a thing. According to various news articles, people have indeed, intentionally or not, snorted the ashes of someone or something’s remains. Perhaps this is where the idea for Bone Parish came about.
In Bone Parish, vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn, a hot new drug called “Ash” is in high demand in New Orleans. When you’re high on Ash, you get to live out the memories of the deceased—you can soak up the ardor of thousands of fans while you sing the tunes of a chart-topping musician or you can lead a Jonestown-like cult to drink the purple Kool Aid. But selling the experiences of the legendary dead obviously comes at a price, and the Winters family must decide what cost they’re willing to pay to keep their business purely in the family.
As one might expect from a successful family-run drug trade, the story develops around the conflict between the family members and between larger investors who want to buy out the business. Mrs. Winters is now representing the household after the death of her husband, though she uses careful rations of his body to call upon him for advice. The Winters children have varying ideas of what it means to run the business. The eldest son would like to expand, while the daughter, who is credited with the secret process for making the drug, understands the risks of drawing attention from too many robbed graves of the once-famous. A New Yorker offers to buy out the business in full, but Mrs. Winters resists, ignoring his warning about the cartels who will inevitably come. And of course a cartel does come, and they’re tied up with the police, and a son gets captured and tortured, and so on, a la Breaking Bad or any other story of drug trade.
While the concept of experiencing the memories of the deceased is unique, as is the notion of targeting particular deceased for their experiences, the story as a whole is a bit formulaic. It’s interesting to bring back a war veteran for his sniping skills, and I can see the experiences of a cult leader going for top dollar in this narrative. However, the family conflict and the competing drug lords just seems inevitable. I would’ve liked the story to follow the concept of the experiences more closely than the business angle.
Artist Jonas Scharf employs neon pastels to portray the psychedelic experiences of those high on Ash. These scenes stand in stark contrast to the evening forays into the graveyard or the isolated bayous of Louisiana. As the family begins to use the drug defensively, Scharf has a chance to exercise some creative muscle with depictions of teeming monstrous faces melting together.
This horror comic is appropriate for teens and older who are wise enough not to try cremainlining for themselves. Patrons who like crime comics might also be intrigued by the title. It does contain some nudity and a fair amount of gore (e.g., dead bodies, torture scenes, war scenarios), so younger teens and pre-teens might not need to check this volume out. I would likely hold off on buying volume 1 until volume 2 comes out. If volume 2 develops more of the horror aspect and less of the criminal intrigue, I think the series will be worth investing in.
Bone Parish, vol. 1
By Cullen Bunn
Art by Jonas Scharf
BOOM! Studios, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)
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Character Traits: Black