Hello reader(s). Did you notice? Did you see? It’s back again. It has been for some time, now.
October. Halloween season.
And the nightmares came back with it. I’m sure you have them, too. In fact, I’m positive you do. Of course, that could just be a…
This comic is NOT appropriate for young children due to violence, gore, and occasional adult themes.
Like the dearly departed Split Lip Horror, False Positive is an anthology of graphic art short stories that covers the whole gamut of horror from the macabre and the surreal delving deeply into dark fantasy and science fiction along the way. As such, there are no characters to introduce, no plots to unravel, at least, not in the usual sense.
Unlike Split Lip, False Positive is written and drawn exclusively by “Big” Mike Walton, as opposed to one writer and various artists. This gives the comics much more of a visual and stylistic identity. The creative cloth from which the stories are cut is much more tangible when there’s one person doing the sewing.
The artwork is generally excellent. Walton peppers his dish with haunting glances, unnatural geometries, and slimy, coiling viscera. Again, the fact that every story shares the same artistic style gives the reader the chance to soak it in more thoroughly. Each chapter even has a sort of color identity to help differentiate it from the others, so it doesn’t get too monotonous. However, there area a few caveats. Walton’s art is great, but he has this (perhaps deliberate) propensity to leave what appear to be sketch marks and lines all across faces, hands, and on other things like an odd form of shading or highlighting. It could just be an artistic quirk, or maybe it’s meant to promote unease in the reader by making things seem incomplete, unreal. Either way, there are a few times – such as in “Ill Repute” – when this might end up more distracting than anything. It also tends to give characters an almost plastic shininess, as if their faces were just carefully sculpted masks waiting to fall off… although, now that I say it, that is pretty creepy; maybe it is intentional. Characters across separate tales also tend to look very similar, to the point where the reader can sometimes mistake one character for an unrelated one –
although sometimes there’s a reason for that… Despite these distractions, the art does a splendid job showing us all the disgusting, horrifying, indescribable things that brew in Big Mike’s mind.
Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the writing matches the artwork? After all, for a lot of people, horror is all about imagery. All the usual themes are here; aliens, time travel, errant immortals, fantastic monsters, eldritch forces, and even the occasional psychopath. Each story is only a couple dozen pages long at the most, but Walton manages to convey everything we need to know about the characters or the setting. As for the things we don’t know… well, one could also argue that horror is all about not knowing. There’s even the barest skeleton of a continuity to help fuel theories of what might be coming just around the corner. In terms of style, False Positive channels manages to channel series like the The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, while still putting its own spin on things. a suitcase full of magic potions, a woman who takes hoarding to an extreme, a toothache that runs much deeper than it should, and a new twist on the familiar hitchhiker story. Although the elements may be familiar, the presentation is unique.
I once mentioned – over a year ago, actually – that the key to good horror is a good build up and a nice twist and, in that regard, False Positive more than satisfies. The secret isn’t that the story has a twist, but that the twist is satisfying and just a wee bit surprising. The ratio can change, but the two things need to be balanced. Occasionally, False Positive‘s twists can be a little too out of left field – I’m looking at you, “Constriction” – which runs the risk of ruining the reader’s
But that’s just one example. While I may have a nit to pick with one or two of them, every story in this anthology stands perfectly well on its own
and some stand together. My personal favorites from Season One are the tragically gruesome “Concoction”, the wonderfully twisted “Ache”, and the inexplicably enticing “Wayfarer” with a special place for “Cops ‘n Robbers”. You have no idea how desperately I want to mention Season Two, but I should leave myself something to talk about next year… assuming we’re all here then.
Well-drawn, smartly written, and deliciously unsettling, False Positive is a great series to tear into while you’re sitting all alone in the dark, with only the light of the monitor to protect you. Go ahead and give it a read… just be sure you are alone, when you do.
False Positive is written and drawn by Mike Walton. This comic, including the images used in this article, belongs to him.