When a skillful creator puts the reader inside the head of a murderer and forces us to see the world as the killer sees it, it can be a truly frightening experience. The List is a truly frightening experience.
The List chronicles the story of an unnamed man who is out to complete the final Commandments on his List–a list that he has carved into his stomach. This man has delusions of grandeur, of the angels literally smiling down on him from above. As he confronts the evil of his actions, a fateful encounter with a family member threatens to bring his story to an even more horrifying end.
Let’s dissect the information in the above paragraph for a second, because it all amplifies the fear in the story.
Isn’t it more frightening to have this killer be unnamed? He could be anybody, an anonymous face on the street. You may step over a man like him every time you step over a homeless man, and doesn’t that thought make you cringe a bit?
Even more frightening is the way that the killer carves his Commandments onto his stomach. The killer’s plans are literally cutting into him, causing him deep physical pain and driving him to commit his evil acts. The full-page shot midway through the book in which the killer is wandering through a house with a hoodie covering his head and bloody words carved into his stomach, is strikingly eerie.
Then there’s the case of the angel smiling on our killer. Of course, we can presume that the angel is just a manifestation of the killer’s inner delusions, but how can we know for sure? How can we be positive that the man’s experiences aren’t literally true? We’re seeing the events from inside his eyes, after all, so does it matter how real the experiences are if the killer believes they’re real? Perception literally trumps reality in the killer’s mind, so his experiences are what we readers experience.
All of this is presented in a calm, quiet, deliberate pace that only adds to the horror. The sparse style of the book helps to accentuate the painful events being depicted and serves to embrace the holy horror of the events. We’re stuck trying to figure out what the hell is going on, as the story slowly progresses in front of us.
The art by Henry Popienia and Tom Bonin is ideally suited to this book. It’s a realistic style, similar to work that we might see in a superhero title. The characters look realistic, with true-seeming musculature and facial expressions that only add to the horror. In fact, the familiar style of an American pop comic book feature makes the story even more frightening and intense.
This is book three of The List, but it stands on its own. I don’t think readers will be confused if they encounter this story without reading the previous chapters. Horror this intense stands well on its own.
For more on The List, see here.