Those that know the name Steve Niles are likely familiar with his seminal work, 30 Days of Night, which had vampires run amok in an Alaska town where the nights, as the title says and to the vampires’ delight, last around 30 days. Horror fans were also delighted with the story, which led to subsequent sequels and a feature film starring Josh Hartnett. Helping to popularize horror comic books in the early 2000’s, Niles has been steadily working on horror comics and more mainstream superhero titles. That said, his latest comic, a supernatural story called Brynmore, doesn’t live up to Niles’s reputation.
Forgoing vampires, the terror in this tale comes from a multigenerational curse. Walking into that curse is Mark Turner, a recently divorced and recently sober man who returns to his hometown of Turner Island to try and find his emotional footing, even though Mark’s family name is as welcomed by the locals as a beached whale carcass at low tide. That’s because Mark’s ancestors brought a curse to the island, one that Mark accidentally releases when he releases Brynmore. Now Mark must avoid the supernatural terror closing around the island but he must also escape the anger of the townspeople.
The structure of Brynmore is so evident, Niles could have plugged the elements in on a flow chart: man comes back to hometown where he’s not wanted, Mark accidentally unleashes ancient evil, and Mark and others (including the zombie/monster/superhero Brynmore) are the only ones who can stop it. There seems to be an overall lack of details that would flesh out the characters, explain their motivations, or move the plot along in a logical fashion. Story elements merely happen and the readers are whiplashed from one plot point to the next. This is rather disappointing, considering how strongly the first issue opens. That first issue does a thorough job leaving the proper breadcrumbs of a mystery that will draw readers, and the subsequent issues squander that potential.
If anything can draw readers away from Niles’s barely there story, it’s the artwork by Damien Worm, who adds a distinct and measured aesthetic to Turner’s Island. All of the backgrounds are rendered in the somber colors of a Southern Gothic novel. Porches and docks look ready to creak once someone steps on them and shadows pool around everything once the sun goes down. The titular Brynmore, looking less something from Southern Gothic and more like a centerpiece of a supernatural superhero comic, draws the eye with a look that is somehow both handsome and dour, like the stone statue atop a crypt that has come to life.
Though the book has some delightfully dark eye candy, the story within makes me hesitant to recommend it, especially since there’s so much better examples of Niles’ work, whether its 30 Days of Night and its spinoffs or his other forays into horror like “Remains,” where it’s zombies in Las Vegas. The slow pace of Brynmore doesn’t help Niles. His best work involves people pushed against the wall by a terror that’s relentlessly coming for them.
By Steve Niles
Art by Damien Worm
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Addiction