By: John C. Mayberry
One thing that can make a work of fiction great is if it has some form of real-life connection. A great source for this would be any work that’s set during the time of a real historic event, as writers and artists are given the opportunity to explore and portray the human emotion and drama that people of that era may have experienced. This is especially true with the genre of comics, where stories like these can provide just as much entertainment value as any TV show or feature film. The creative team of Rafael Scavone and Rafael De Latorre achieve this to a high degree with their Comixology original limited series, Hailstone. This writer/artist team have crafted a story that is not only immersive in a tumultuous period of American history but adds genuine feelings of dread and unease within the pages of this first issue alone.
The events of the story begin in the titular town, enduring a harsh winter, when the town’s citizens must deal with the fear and uncertainty of a string of disappearances suspected of being connected with a Union Army factory’s presence. With the mounting tension between Hailstone’s citizens and the military presence in their town, Sheriff Denton tries desperately, alongside his deputy, Toby, to not only maintain peace, but to search for the missing and solve the mystery behind their disappearances, only to find themselves dealing with something that’s not quite human.
Artwork, writing, coloring, and lettering all come together to give you a first issue that really puts you amid the plight of the citizens of Hailstone. Giving you a small taste of the hardships of life in the Civil War era, made more desperate with the mystery of a yet unseen beast threatening their very lives, Hailstone #1 is truly the beginnings of a memorable limited series that hopefully, will have its story continued beyond just these five issues, and become a story that is not only terrifying, but resonating with the comic book audience, more so than this first issue already is. So, with that kids, go make yourself a Comixology account, like, now. Even if it’s just for this series, I promise you, it is completely worth it.
Artwork – Rafael De Latorre’s art really brings out a harsh reflection of life in the Civil War era. The environments, the structures, even the body language and facial expressions portrayed in the story’s characters do an excellent job in the illustration of their already difficult lives being made even worse. The imagery used in some panels also works remarkably well in emphasizing the horror aspect of this tale, especially in those where you’re seeing a character, or characters, from a distance, leaving the impression you’re witnessing events from the point of view from the unseen creature itself.
Writing – Rafael Scavone is now one of my favorite writers, hands down. The way the story is paced perfectly introduces readers to Hailstone’s plight, without moving too slowly. You are given enough storytelling and horror-oriented aspects in great balance with each other, making readers want to see how the story continues while giving them the sense that something here is not okay.
Coloring – Colorist Wesllei Manoel brings even more life into the story of Hailstone, masterfully adding the appropriate hues to every panel in this comic. The overall mood is enhanced to new levels in combination with De Latorre’s art and Scavone’s writing to where, for example, you can actually feel how cold it is with Manoel’s use of cooler tones, and the impression of comfort with the utilization of warmer tones.
Page composition – The pages of Hailstone #1 are put together perfectly. There isn’t so much going on, on any one particular page, to where you’re lost in the story’s progression, with panels sized and placed appropriately, making it easier for readers to follow the story being told and immersing themselves deeper into the world created by Rafael De Latorre and Rafael Scavone.
OVERALL SCORE – 10 out of 10
It always makes my day when I come across a comic that’s perfect in every way. I was interested after just the first five pages, but after reading the rest of the issue, I need to see where Hailstone goes from here. This is one I highly recommend to everybody who has a Comixology account, and one reason I’d encourage anybody getting one. I love horror, and how the genre exudes a certain air of hopelessness, desperation, and despair since, to me, these elements only enhance the horror experience and Hailstone #1 has all of this going for it. Well done gentleman, cannot wait to read issue #2!