Welcome once again, dear friends, to another Infernal Review. All this month, we’ve glimpsed at web comics featuring traditional monsters, eldritch abominations, and unnatural ursine. Today, however, we look at horror…
In a world where virtually all “horror” web comics include actual horror more as an afterthought to their story or as a means of morbidly dark humor, Split Lip is an anthology of pure horror tales akin to those of the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt (sans Rod Sterling or the cackling Cryptkeeper). Though they were all written by Sam Costello, the web comic features around 21 distinct artists and only a few of them illustrate more than one story, giving each tale an overall unique feeling in regards to the others. However, as this web comic is a collection of tales with no connecting story or art, this is a bit of a difficult one to review in my usual format, so I’m really just going to talk about overall thoughts on the web comic in general.
Since there is no single artist for the series, the stories go through a broad range of styles. Most of these styles match their connected stories well, but a few don’t mesh quite so well. This is most likely due to art that’s hard to make out, or a style that one wouldn’t normally think to associate with a story like the one being illustrated. However, this may just be my own biases in art affecting my opinion of the pieces. I tend to like more solid, yet nuanced art, like that of Panopticon, or Termites in Your Smile, but the art in tales like The Harvestmen is so striking and matches the tone so nicely I can’t help but appreciate it.
The key to good horror, traditionally, has always been two-part; good build up with an even better twist at the end. In this regard, the writing in the stories can be a little hit and miss. It wouldn’t be entirely just to say that the twist in most of these stories is predictable, since the horror genre has become almost synonymous with “twist ending”, but some of the stories felt like they either ended too ambiguously or at the wrong point. An Old Man, Looking is a good example; without spoiling the tale, the end felt like it was meant to have a horrifying revelation, yet its significance is never established beyond the fact that the narrator sees something terrifying. As much as I like the art for Panopticon, it too had too much ambiguity with no real resolution, in my opinion. Spoilers The character being focused on (literally) becomes frightened when he notices everyone in the store is staring right at him. When he panics and tries to make a run for it, he cries out “How could they know?” Know what? Did he shoplift something from the store that I didn’t notice? People staring at me would make me nervous too, but what is he scared of? We shouldn’t have to fill in the blanks in a story like this. This isn’t Mad Libs. The comic ends with all of the people crowding around the man’s car and… staring at him some more as the comic shifts focus to a light post. Really? That’s the horrifying ending to this tale of socially awkward grocery shoppers? End of Spoilers.
However, when the writing in one of the stories is good, it’s scary good. The best of these are the ones that feel like they would be right at home with classic Twilight Zone episodes. My personal favorites include Termites in your Smile, Ashes to Ashes, The Pieces of Meat, and School Supplies (while I didn’t care for its art, I did enjoy its story in the “To Serve Man” sort of vein).
All in all, Split Lip is a great horror anthology which is bound to have something to give you chills in the night. The stories cover the range from classic horror comic to illustrated tales of the macabre. Written entirely by Sam Costello, the comic has a slew of artists behind it as well. The list of the comic’s creators can be found here. Split Lip is currently available for purchase in five different collections.
Sadly, all good horror tales must inevitably come to an end. On April 16, 2012, after 6 years of running and 36 stories, Sam Costello declared Split Lip to be over. While he gives a quick explanation in his blog, he goes more in depth about it in his interview with Comic Book Resource’s Robot 6.
Why do so many horror stories leave you hanging?