Written by O'Brian Gunn
There are plenty of shows, movies, books, comic books, and various other media that blend the supernatural/horror with urban fantasy. But not all of them accomplish their goal of scaring the souls right out of our bodies, and even fewer manage to do so in a way that relies on more than just lazy jump scares, half-baked dread, and been-there-been-bored-by-that attempts at body horror. Thankfully, Alex de Campi, Jerry Ordway, and Marissa Louise have come together to remind us of what it means to be gleefully terrified and deliciously horrified.
Semiautomagic is comprised of a series of short stories that explore the life and horrors of Alice Creed, professor and occult investigator with a penchant for ditching her own classes to save the lives of victims of the supernatural. Originally included as part of Dark Horse Presents, Semiautomagic seamlessly combines (truly) Lovecraftian-horror with a Black Mirror-esque exploration of the unforeseen consequences of technology. From children’s fantasies corrupted into devious demons and soul-sucking computer games to actors who use necromancy to secure a coveted role, Alice has seen and done it all.
What truly elevates this body of work is that the evil isn’t familiar. There are no werewolves, vampires, evil elven queens, or familiar god-like creatures to be found between these pages. Instead, readers are treated to the stuff of TRUE nightmares, visions that lurk in the corners of the Devil’s yellow eyes and make him want to churn up the fires of Hell to keep the darkness at bay. Imagine tripping on ‘shrooms, smoking a blunt and taking a hit of LSD, all before watching a horror movie while inside a haunted house. That’s what it’s like to read Semiautomagic. And I loved every second of it.
While Alice isn’t the most fleshed out character, it’s the world she inhabits that gets the most development. De Campi does a great job of teasing the story and intrigue out, and Ordway and Louise are fantastic at using images and colors to translate the team’s shared vision of slowly dragging the reader into their wholly original universe. There’s an undeniable 80’s style to the work here that helps invoke that feeling of classic horror. That said, I’m not the biggest horror connoisseur, so your opinion and mileage may vary. The accompanying images should give you enough of an idea of what to expect.
As I said earlier, the stories of Semiautomagic were part of Dark Horse Presents from 2014 to 2015. Since then, the tales were bound together with the help of the collaborative magic of Kickstarter. There are also three additional stories made available only through Kickstarter, including a special story focused on Alice’s time-twisted friend, Harriet. If you have any way of getting a hold of the additional three stories, I highly encourage you to check them out. The selections do a great job of fleshing out the world and stretching your unease to the limits.
You can finish all the currently available stories of Semiautomagic in a day, even sooner if you devour them like I did. Afterward, don’t be surprised if you start digging for more works from de Campi, Louise and Ordway...like I did. But now, I can’t help but wonder: Did the three creators sacrifice their own souls to Cthulhu to create such imaginative cosmic dread, or the souls of their readers? Either way, I hope the bill never comes due.
104 pgs (an additional 80 pgs with the Kickstarter-exclusive box set)
Recommend Buy New, Buy Used/On Sale, or Skip:
Absolutely buy new! (Or check with your local library)
Up Next: The Dark, written and directed by Justin P. Lange, centers on Mina, an undead teen cursed to haunt and hunt the woods of her childhood, and Alex, a blind teenager with problems of his own. Together, they’ll forge an unusual friendship, one built on a pile of bodies.