The Eighth Seal #1 Retrospective Review


A retrospective review of The Eighth Seal series from James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock. This is a review of The Eighth Seal #1.

Over the course of the coming weeks, I will be providing interested readers with a number of retrospective reviews of some awesome ongoing (non-superhero) titles that might be flying a bit under the radar. Once we’re caught up to the current issue—and hopefully some new readers have been introduced to these kickass books—I will provide monthly reviews of the continuing series. James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock’s The Eighth Seal is one such series. So, without further ado …

The Eighth Seal #1

Story by: James Tynion IV / Illustrated by:  Jeremy Rock / Colors by: Nolan Woodard / Letters by: Troy Peteri

“There’s nothing more frightening than the distinct feeling that you’re going insane, that something in you has twisted and is pulling you towards your darkest instincts…” – James Tynion IV, on his motivation for writing The Eighth Seal.

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There aren’t many things in life that are more unnerving, more outright terrifying, than the realization that you’re losing your grip on reality—that you’re at risk of surrendering the comfort and security that only your own mind can provide. One thing that is scarier than that, though? How about the realization that, if you aren’t going crazy, then you are, in fact, actually possessed by a demon who lusts for violent, bloody mass murder? And in those moments that the demon takes over your mind and shows you visions of yourself doing unspeakably evil things—to your own horror, you find yourself enjoying it. That is exactly the situation that Amelia Green finds herself in from the opening pages of The Eighth Seal’s inaugural issue. Oh, and to make matters worse: she also happens to be the First Lady of the United States.

One part The West Wing, one part H.P. Lovecraft, The Eighth Seal #1 has all the makings of a true horror classic. It follows Amelia as she straddles the lines between truth and fiction, stability and uncertainty, self-control and the desire to decapitate young children – all of the lines that you would expect a person having hallucinations about turning into a demonic monster to straddle, really. But are they just hallucinations? The issue ends with a cliffhanger that suggests there might be something more than just a tiny bout of insanity at work here, as some of the people closest to the First Lady seem to be involved in a conspiracy to guide her demonic apparitions toward the realization of a twisted real-world objective.

The Eighth Seal #1 is driven by Rock’s surreal illustrations providing the backdrop to Tynion’s bleak dialogue. Woodard’s colors also do a great job of displaying brightness and grittiness at the appropriate times, further adding to the feeling that the reader gets watching Amelia teeter on reality and (what her conspiring psychiatrist keeps telling her is stress-driven) fantasy. All of the artistic foundations work almost flawlessly together—along with a plot that is left dangling unapologetically in the air—to set a mysterious, intriguing tone for a series that is sure to be a hell of a ride! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The Eighth Seal is now available in print from IDW, but it was originally formatted to be viewed digitally—specifically on Mark Waid’s online comic platform Thrillbent—which is far-and-away the best medium by which to view this book. Nothing is “wrong” with the reliable, old-fashioned print version at all, but like much good work in the horror genre, The Eighth Seal #1 relies at times on the element of surprise and shock, a component that is beautifully-conveyed in the digital panel-to-panel movement that platforms like Thrillbent provide.

In fact, from cover to cover, there is almost no movement at all in Rock’s standalone illustrations except when Amelia is experiencing her demonic transformations. The movement that is included is almost entirely dependent upon the digital “moving shot” technique that makes this comic fun to read. Moreover, the limited-movement effect almost gives the progression of the story the feeling of being viewed through the lens of a camera snapping frame after frame, still building upon the surreal feeling that leaves the reader questioning whether they are supposed to be viewing reality or not.

All-in-all, Tynion and Rock’s foray into horror has proven to be a successful undertaking. The Eighth Seal #1’s combination of concept, artwork, and intrigue provide a thrill that’s worth a look, even if horror isn’t your preferred genre. If it is, then you’re in for a real treat, especially if you have the means to view the issue digitally.