That Hellbound Train #1

A comic review article by: Felicity Gustafson
Yay, another creepy horror comic! On that note, has anyone seen The Polar Express? This is basically a hellish variation of that. Boy loses dad, boy meets train, conductor helps boy… for a price. The setup for this wasn’t extremely creepy and I’m not sure if I can take a train going to Hell seriously, but it was a decent read. The artwork of the train and the conductor make up for the lack of creativity by far.

Granted, this is the first issue, so it’s mostly the Martin’s back story to give the reader a little idea of his first introduction to the Hellbound Train and why it means so much to him. I did like how the beginning was actually the beginning in this story, instead of going back and forth between reality and flashbacks. The only problem with this is that it lacks the mystery behind Martin’s character, which is something a lot of horror writers rely on. Having to grow up with a rough life’s made Martin into a pretty shrewd kid though, so I’m betting he has some tricks up his sleeve for the Conductor.

This comic plays a lot on the basis of making a deal with the Devil and selling your soul. Martin feels very lost and alone, so when the Hellbound Train pulls up, he figures he might as well get something in return for taking a seat, right? It’s not really said why the Conductor wants Martin badly enough to drive all the way out to get just him, but he does want him badly enough to strike a bargain with the boy. At least Martin’s smart enough to realize the Conductor wants him and gets a little bit of magic out of it. Sell your soul, don’t just give it away.

The artwork in this comic, at least the train and Conductor, has an astounding amount of detail. I can imagine the couple pictures of the train, interior covered in decay and bones, took an extremely long time to finish in comparison to the rest. The craggy lines of the Conductor’s face reminded me of the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Considering how much they creeped me out, I’d say that’s a really good thing.

For me, the Conductor set the dark tone of the whole comic -- he looks like he’d be a demon from Hell. However, Martin, his dad and the random people and backgrounds lacked the special detail Wachter put into the train and its driver, but that just made the hellish duo that much more impressive. Also, the simple drawing of Martin helps to remind the reader that he’s just a normal boy.

Overall, I’d say the series has potential. It’s not as creepy as I was first expecting, but it could get better. I’m very curious about the stop watch the Conductor imbued and how Martin will use it. The boy obviously has some sort of plan, but whether he’ll outsmart the Conductor or if the Conductor will get Martin in the end remains to be seen. I plan on sticking with the series and seeing where it goes.

Felicity Gustafson was born in Ohio and, after the astounding realization that there was more to do than look at trees and cows, she decided to become a nerd and got into comics, anime and video games. New to Comics Bulletin, she sticks mostly to reviewing things out of the horror and comedy genres. She spends most of her time working in the manufacturing industry, finishing her computer degree and steadfastly avoiding ham fat at all costs.

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