Cullen Bunn is one of the hardest working creators in comics. Not only has he written a variety of “X-Titles” for Marvel such as Magneto and Uncanny X-Men , but he is equally well-known for his award winning Dark Horse series Harrow County. Horror fans got a little nervous when Bunn started to shift much of his creative output to the the Marvel Universe (including the recently completed event series Monsters Unleashed), but fans have nothing to fear with his latest slice of paranoia-filled nightmares called Regression (published by Image Comics).
Before the release of Regression, Bunn talked extensively about how the title was grounded in some of his own unique experiences with his father as a child. Bunn set-up the new series in his Horror News Network interview by explaining that “My father was a professional stage hypnotist, and I saw many strange feats of the human mind while watching him perform. Sometimes, in smaller group sessions, he would conduct past life regressions. That’s when things got really strange. I witnessed people describing—in vivid detail—day-to-day life from centuries earlier. I heard people speaking with perfect accents from faraway lands. I heard others speaking in languages they didn’t know.”
In particular, Bunn recounted an incident that has haunted him ever since, recalling that “There was this one guy, though. My dad hypnotized him and started the regression. He went back five years, ten, twenty, and the guy recalled precise details from his youth and childhood. But when he was regressed even further, into the years before he was born, the subject just sat there in this still, eerie silence. My dad said that maybe he had never had another life. But I remember thinking that they guy DID have past lives, but they were too frightening to talk about. That has stuck with me for all these years. And somewhere along the way, the notion struck me: what if your past life was awful? And what if, when you did a past life regression, the awfulness followed you back?”
And so begins Regression, and it begins with a bang. The reader is immediately tossed into the world of Adrian Padilla at a seemingly innocuous picnic. The dire, panicked expression on his face tells a different story however, especially when insects begin to emerge from the mouths, eyes, and ears of anyone who he speaks to at the party (this is not a story for insect-phobic readers, as the creepy crawlies never stop coming from every direction, and place, possible).
Bunn does little to set-up or explain Adrian’s “hallucinations”, and it is a good thing he didn’t, as this start provides a meandering nightmare quality to the story where the reader is left wondering if the visions are in his head, or if there is a lot more to the story that is yet to be revealed. After a friend suggests a visit to a hypnotist that does past life regression therapy on the side, Adrian’s life becomes much more complicated and involves a booze-and-sex-filled bender, a possible visit to a cult ritual from his or someone else’s past, and a murder which he may be implicated in.
Bunn weaves together these disparate elements with ease, but he is helped immensely by newcomer Danny Luckert who provides the art for the series. Luckert ‘s style is perfect for this suburban horror story, with elements in his style that resembles a mix between Geof Darrow and Jacen Burrows. The page composition highlights the confusion Adrian is experiencing, but it is a delight for readers. On one page in the first issue, Adrian stumbles to a toilet as he is about to get sick and the entire page is framed by the view from the lid with three additional panels that highlight the main character’s troubled state. This style continues throughout the book with long shots, slanted close-ups, and haphazardly placed text-less panels adding to mess that Adrian’s life has become. After only two issues, I can’t picture another artist handling the art chores on this title, and I hope that Luckert stays on Regression for the duration of the series. He is a young artist to watch out for in the future.
Color is another key element of the series, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a horror series with so much of it recent years. Most horror titles stick to the standard blacks, grays, and reds, with little variation or variety, and just as some filmmakers make the mistake of shooting horror films in almost complete darkness, their comic breathern also fall into this standard genre technique. Regression, however, utilizes the entire spectrum of the rainbow and credit must be given to Marie Enger (who serves as the colorist on Regression) for “lighting” the world of the series with more than your standard “goth” palette. The combination of Luckert’s realistic art and Enger’s vibrant colors help establish the story in a “real world” which in turn makes the nightmares even more jarring.
Regression (which is labled “M” for mature on the cover) is certainly for older, more seasoned horror fans who appreciate the “body horror” of Cronenberg’s films and comics such as Alan Moore’s Providence which challenge, horrify, disgust and entice the reader all at once. Because of this combination, it is one of the best horror comics to debut in years.
Regression #2 is currently on sale. The third issue will be released on July 12, 2017.