The best ghost stories are those of the haunted. Not necessarily by spectral ghosts lurking around every corner, though fun. Ghosts are the past, events we repressed and chose to ignore until they materialize in our dreams, our lives, our relationships. Chase Blaine spent years running from his past. But, all roads lead home in Tim Daniel and Michael Moreci’s ‘The Plot.’
It stands to reason that our most haunted places are our own homes, where past and present dance devilishly close. Homes are typically revered safe spaces and shelters. But, what if that shelter turned against you? In gothic fiction, homes are the source of our madness for home is where we are.
Much like the mind, homes in supernatural stories offer dark mazes as landscape and metaphor. In ‘The Plot,’ the landscape is the deep bog connected to the family home. The metaphor being the mysterious generational illness, one easily excused as the Blaine family madness. That illness seeps between floorboards, leaks from above, floods the basement below. Chase Blaine’s return home uncovers more of that family madness in his quest to renovate the deteriorated estate. Yet, the bog on which the estate resides goes far deeper than we know, and Chase drags us all into the depths with him.
Issue 5 is rich with history and creeping sensation. Joshua Hixson’s art, paired with Kurt Michael Russell’s colors, evokes the sickly dark moisture of a brackish bog with malicious intent. I loved the orange on Vitus Blaine as a visual metaphor for being chosen by the bog. I also love the visual of the bog monster as root and reptile, yet undeniably Lovecraftian.
It’s fair to mention the classics with which ‘The Plot’ shares many of its themes. Any fan of House on Haunted Hill or The Shining over their many iterations will recognize the ‘bodies in the basement’ theme. Or, as in The Changeling, secrets in the attic. It’s impossible to ignore the similarities between Joe Hill’s ‘Locke & Key,’ which begins under a very similar premise but arrives at wildly different conclusions. Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s ‘Infidel’ raises similar situations within the context of social horror. All of these instances use a house, apartment building or hotel to tell the same story of lands and minds fouled by dark histories on which foundations were set.
These examples do not distract from what Daniel and Moreci are doing with ‘The Plot,’ but rather lend a bit of context to the horror. After all, horror is the study of fear. And what is gothic horror if not the certain madness that comes when reality is too much to bear? ‘The Plot’ is one of hidden depths at the bottom of which lies the truth behind the madness.
Fresh from his attic discovery, Chase attempts yet again to run only to find that he can no longer escape. Yet, unlike Reese in earlier issues, Blaine is not cast in the same orange tones. We’re left to wonder if the Blaine family has more secrets to uncover than those buried in the bog.
‘The Plot Issue 5’ is published by Vault Comics’ Nightfall imprint. It’s written by Tim Daniel and Michael Moreci, with art by Joshua Hixson, colors by Kurt Michael Russell, and letters by Jim Campbell. Chris Shehan does an amazing B cover for those looking for spooky vintage vibes. Dive in on Comixology.