When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature called New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
We’re here to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of mine. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
Today, we’re going to look at Image Comics’ Regression Volume 1- Way Down Deep, by Cullen Bunn and Danny Luckert.
Here’s what Image tells us about the book:
Adrian is plagued by ghastly waking nightmares. To understand and possibly treat these awful visions, Adrian reluctantly agrees to past life regression hypnotherapy. As his consciousness is cast back through time, Adrian witnesses a scene of horrific debauchery and diabolism.
Waking, he is more unsettled than before, and with good reason-something has followed him back. Adrian descends into a world of occult conspiracy, mystery, reincarnation, and insanity from which there is no escape.
Presented by Cullen Bunn, Danny Luckert, and Marie Enger, Regression is a tale of supernatural terror and intrigue unlike any horror comic you’ve ever experienced.
Brendan Allen: Regression! I’ve been waiting to pop this one on you. We have this Adrian kid, who’s having horrible, intense, vivid waking nightmares. He can barely function, it’s getting so bad.
His friend Molly convinces him to try Past Life Regression Therapy to help him get to the root of the thing, and it works! Sort of. Adrian catches glimpses of something so ghastly it does his head in. And then everything goes sideways.
How you doing over there, Tone?
Tony Thornley: I’ve actually caught an issue here, issue there of this series, but this is the first time I sat down and spent some time with the book. I like Cullen a lot. He’s a genuinely nice guy when I’ve interacted with him, and he’s done some fun comics. But man, is his imagination ever screwed up! (Cullen, I mean that as a compliment.)
He really does some excellent and effective horror. One of my favorite comics is Harrow County and this is extremely different but you can tell that creatively they’re kind of cousins. This is a fun yet VERY twisted book.
Brendan: I got to interview Cullen Bunn about Regression way back when the first chapter dropped, and I learned that this story has its roots back in Cullen’s childhood, watching his father perform on stage as a hypnotist. He saw people speaking in languages that they shouldn’t have known and recalling, with perfect detail, events from daily life in time periods long gone.
The creepiest thing he saw was a guy who went under with no issues. Totally responsive subject. But when Franklin Bunn regressed him, he just sat there in eerie silence. He would not respond in any way to Franklin’s voice. It took nearly three hours to get the guy to come back from his catatonic state.
Franklin quipped to the crowd that the subject must be a “new soul,” but it planted the seeds for Regression in young Cullen’s mind. What if the guy wasn’t a “new soul,” but had rather seen something so horrific in his past life, it struck him dumb?
And then, what if the regression event gave that evil thing just enough of a grip on the subject that they could ride back with them into the present?
Tony: And Bunn takes it to some great places here. However, I have to say this is ABSOLUTELY one of those books when the full creative team shares equal credit. Even before Bunn has introduced us to hypnosis or past lives, in the first issue we get a ritual sacrifice, haunting daydreams, and a protagonist barely holding on to his sanity. All of that is fantastically rendered by Luckert and Marie Enger.
Luckert has this talent for finding camera angles that are extremely disorienting and vertigo inducing. So while Bunn is laying the groundwork in his script, Luckert is putting us off balance on the page. I don’t think I’ve seen many creative teams that clicked so well from page one.
Tony: Luckert’s able to take the quieter moments in the script, and make them sing with strong character acting, but then add just a detail or two that makes the mundane horrifying. My stomach twisted every time I saw an insect in an otherwise “normal” moment.
And Enger’s colors… she chose a palette for the everyday stuff that’s kind of beige, but then as the creepy starts to show up you understand why. It’s all to make the scary stuff, which is rendered in reds and hazy grays, jump out when it happens.
Brendan: Yes! There’s such a great balance between the banality of the everyday moments, and then just the sheer madness and absolute terror Adrian is experiencing. Sometimes, on the same page, in the same panel, because the people around him are not on the same ride.
Tony: Exactly! There’s a splash of color that only Adrian and the reader can see. Or an unsettling detail. It’s really great what they do!
Brendan: It really is. Man, I love this book. This is one of the stories that made me stick with this comics journalism thing, way back when I was getting started. This is just the first arc, too. And this first book, by itself, tells a complete story. Could have left it there, but what comes up next takes that weird and creepy knob and cranks it to 11.
Tony: That’s one thing I really liked too. It had a resolution, and it wasn’t the best because it was a little too perfect. It was almost formulaic in how well it ended for Adrian. And then we get this twist in the last few pages that makes you heave this sigh and think “thank goodness, I knew it wasn’t that easy!” It’s kind of like the opposite of a couple of single volume stories we’ve talked about in the column- if it had just ended there, it would have worked. But in this story, it works better BECAUSE it’s continuing.
Brendan: Totally would have worked. Absolutely. But I’ve seen the stuff that comes after, and this team keeps it on track through three solid arcs, and then implodes the whole thing nicely. So, what’s up? Did it grab you? You picking up the next arc?
Tony: Oh yeah, I’ve read a couple random issues from later in the run. I’m ready for more of this.
Brendan: Word. And then what are we headed into next from your queue?
Tony: Oh I’ve got a scary one for you! Get ready to be pledged in Wytches by Scott Snyder & Jock!
Brendan: Right on! That’s another one I’ve been meaning to hit up.
Regression Volume 1: Way Down Deep, collects chapters 1-5, Image Comics, released 15 November 2017. Written by Cullen Bunn, art by Danny Luckert, color/letters by Marie Enger, edited by Joel Enos.
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of Regression Vol. 1 at Comixology for $6 right here. Midtown Comics has the physical trade available here for $8.50.