There’s a point in Headless #1 when the issue changes colors. Everything was blue, then everything becomes pink. The scene changes, too. There are new characters – a woman trapped in a cage, guarded by a giant, while a knight in shining armor tries to get her down. Long story short, the color changes because this is a video game and when the game ends, the issue goes back to being blue, but until that happens, you don’t know what’s going on. You can’t know, because this is the first issue and the rules haven’t been established but, since it’s supernatural, maybe there are giants.
A fun reminder of what little is off limits, when a comic’s starting out, Headless #1 begins much grizzlier than that with a crime scene, where at least two people are dead. It’s 1987 and, like a lot of 80’s movies, there’s a slight harshness to writer, Alexander Banchitta’s, dialogue that usually gets sanded down in movies these days. Rick Winter is a rookie cop newly transferred to Salem, who hasn’t been given the warmest of welcomes. The sheriff and deputy don’t want him there. They think he’s too emotional. There’s also a female officer, Sanders, and where she stands is less certain (occasionally because it’s hard to tell who’s speaking – you want to assume the mean comments are being made by the deputy but sometimes all you’ll see is the person’s legs and, when the panel’s oriented higher, she’s in a guilty position).
Robert Ahmad is the artist on this series and the way he’s able to indicate lighting, while sticking to one color and switching off between black or white accents, takes a lot of skill. His inks are deliberate and strong. There are moments, and I’m not sure whether this falls on the writing or the art, that could be a little clearer. The sheriff recognizes the killer’s MO and fears it could mean the return of somebody. The panel for this realization is a close-up on one of the victims, so you think whatever tipped the sheriff off must be there, but I haven’t been able to figure it out.
The comic’s title comes from the Headless Horseman and even though you don’t know how he’s going to be involved, you know enough to keep an eye out for him. Ahmad rewards this impulse by sprinkling jack-o-lanterns throughout the issue. Rick’s little brother, Chris, is the person playing the video game. When we meet him, he seems to be living his fullest, 80’s life: friends who are ready to blame the game when he loses (supportive where Rick’s co-workers aren’t), a bully who could’ve been played by Kiefer Sutherland with a mohawk. Since his brother’s a rookie and new to the area, I do wonder how he has these friends (Chris seems local, so there’s probably a story there), but Chris doesn’t seem to fully embrace the 80’s shenanigans and that pushback adds an unpredictability to what follows.
Salem is a town that needs no introduction, and undoubtedly the witch trials will come up, but Headless #1 has its own story to tell, and it’s coming this fall from Scout Comics.