Horror fans, and even those who aren’t horror fans, are familiar with the murderous exploits of supernatural killers like Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, but very few people wonder what these killers do when they’re not killing. Where do they go to escape the authorities? Where exactly does a seven-foot tall behemoth with a hockey mask and machete go to blend in? He and others like him go to Wilmhurst, a gated community for a very specific type of monster. This is the premise of Where Monsters Lie, written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Piotr Kowalski.
The book introduces readers to many of Wilmhurst’s residents. These include Pearl and Frankie, a woman in a relationship with a murderous doll, and nigh-indestructible murderer Daniel Dawson. It is, in fact, Dawson who ends up creating one of Wilmhurst’s biggest threats by letting someone survive. Said survivor, Connor Hayes, is a former special agent that has trained both body and mind to deal with these kinds of killers, and he has amassed an army of police officers to breach Wilmhurst’s defenses and finally stop the monsters who call Wilmhurst home.
The premise of the book seems too thin to sustain a multi-issue story, but Starks gets a lot of mileage with Wilmhurst’s various citizens, most of them being thinly-veiled homages (or even parodies) of well-known horror icons. One such example is Professor Puzzleman, who murders his victims with over-complicated death traps like Jigsaw from the Saw series, except the professor seems much less competent.
This dark humor is also reflected in Kowalski’s artwork, especially how he depicts violence. When the police descend on Wilmhurst, it’s a murder spree full of graphic yet comedic violence as the murderers become the victims. The color red is generously applied to the page and sharp instruments of all kinds are used to sever appendages and slice jugulars. Starks’s comedic tone pairs perfectly with Kowalski’s expressive character designs. The prevalent expressions experienced by many of these killers, along with Connor Hayes, include wild-eyed, psychopathic rage/glee when committing violence and slack-jawed, horrified embarrassment when their murderous plans fly off the rails.
The tagline of the book reads Cabin in the Woods meets Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil and it sums up the book rather well, since it contains the metafictive deconstruction of horror tropes seen in “Cabin” paired with the gory violence bordering on slapstick seen in Tucker and Dale. Naturally, adult fans of either or both of those films will like this title, as well as any fans of slasher horror. That said, the ending of this first volume might feel incomplete to some, though it’s just as bonkers as the rest of the book, but that incompleteness might excite slasher fans who love a good sequel.
Where Monsters Lie Vol. 01
By Kyle Starks
Art by Piotr Kowalski
Dark Horse, 2023
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)