Graphic novel fans might be familiar with the name Cullen Bunn. They may remember the name from his run on superhero comics like Uncanny X-Men: Superior, Vol. 1 and Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. He has also earned considerable fame with horror series like Shadowman and the Eisner-nominated Harrow County. Bunn once again flexes his horror muscle in his latest, Basilisk, Vol. 1, a revenge story involving superpowered beings that may or may not be gods.
The story opens with Hannah tracking down Regan, a mysterious woman in a blindfold. Regan’s eyes are blindfolded because anyone who looks into her eyes dies a bloody and painful death, and Hannah is the only survivor of the town slaughtered by Regan and her four brethren, known as the Chimera. The Chimera all have powers based on the five senses, have amassed a group of followers, and have left destruction and carnage wherever they go. The other four will try to rescue their wayward member and make Hannah pay for her insolence, bringing the wrath of their followers as well as their own abilities down on her. Hannah, though, will not go down so easily, not when she’s had plenty of time to prepare and is determined to make these self-proclaimed deities pay.
A criticism of Cullen Bunn is that he doesn’t divert too much from an established formula, but in this book, he does a lot with the formula of a brutal revenge tale while generously sprinkling elements of superhero comics. Hannah is basically a woman single-mindedly pursuing vengeance, owns a cache of weapons that would make Rambo jealous, and has literally nothing left to lose. Regan, who has voluntarily left the Chimera, offers to help stop her fellow Chimera members. The other four godlike beings all have their own distinct looks and personalities that prevent them from becoming lazy superhero/horror tropes, all while displaying their sense-based abilities indiscriminately and in very public places.
Bunn’s stories don’t ever skimp on the violence and artist Jonas Scharf’s artwork complements this aspect of the story well. The evil members of the Chimera use hearing, taste, smell, and touch in creative and horrific ways and Scharf depicts the pain and horror they inflict in ways that could turn a more sensitive stomach. There’s also the final battle in this volume that shows all the bodily damage modern weaponry can cause. Not just showing his talent for illustrating violence, Scharf also draws the characters, particularly the members of the Chimera, as looking completely different from one another, from Jimmy-Boy’s civilian Wolverine cosplay to Cara’s child-of-the-meadow appearance.
This book, with its graphic violence and disturbing imagery, belongs squarely in the adult collection, but it also belongs in libraries where there is a solid fanbase for horror graphic novels. Bunn is quite prolific when it comes to horror comics, and Basilisk is definitely one of his stronger entries, even though this is only the first volume. The book ends on an excellent cliffhanger that is sure to generate interest in a Vol. 2 of this series.
Basilisk Vol. 1
By Cullen Bunn
Art by Jonas Scharf
BOOM! Studios, 2022
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)