By Bo Stewart — In just two issues, Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres have firmly established the eerie atmosphere of Cold Spots. Everything in this comic simply feels cold. The colors invoke moods of winter, the characters are distant and evasive, and, of course, ghosts linger in the background, ramping up the creepiness. While I am interested in the larger narrative, the real draw of Cold Spots for me is this spine-chilling ambiance. If you’re a fan of stories like The Shining, Insomnia, or Shutter Island, you should definitely be reading this comic.
Every scene is littered with unease, and Bunn expertly builds tension before each major scare. At its heart, Cold Spots is a ghost story, one with infrequent use of the ghosts that makes their eventual appearance more effective. Both of the splash pages with ghosts in this issue haunted me for hours, long after I’d put the comic down. If that’s not effective storytelling, I don’t know what is. It’s also worth mentioning that the ghosts’ designs are frightening and well-imagined.
The unease of the atmosphere also extends to the characters, and Bunn gives us plenty of reason to doubt their motivations. Everyone has a hidden agenda or secrets to protect or both. The main protagonist, private investigator Dan Kerr, is no exception. One of the major reveals of this issue is that Grace, the girl Kerr has been hired to locate, is in fact his daughter. Grace’s role in the unnatural cold will be one of the big mysteries of the arc. I have always been a sucker for stories that use creepy kids effectively, and Grace certainly fits that bill.
Torres’ visuals perfectly compliment the script, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this issue. The gothic setting is gorgeously rendered with the scenes on Quarrels’ Island being a stand out. We are told that it is the dead of summer but the art exudes cold feelings of winter. This adds to the general sense of unease and disconnect. Even if you can’t see the ghosts, on page, you can feel their presence lingering just off panel. This is storytelling through atmosphere at its best.
Unlike a lot of horror comics that use gore and shock values as the foundation for their scares, Cold Spots instead finds value in leaving much of the story unexplained. We don’t know where these ghosts are from, we don’t know what their intentions are. Hell… we don’t even really know what they look like. It feels as if anything can happen at any moment. Bunn and Torres lean on tension, atmosphere, and the unexplained to build horror. This is a slower burn, but I have every inclination that the real scares are just getting started.
Overall: Cold Spots has managed to establish a perfectly-eerie mood with only two issues. The visuals and characters here all support the same chilly vibe, and the end result is a great Halloween season read. 8.0/10
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Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros.