“Drumhellar” boasts a unique trip into the rural surreal. Written by Alex Link with art from Riley Rossmo (the team that brought you “Rebel Blood”), the first issue is packed with plenty of oddities that will have your imagination falling head over heels. Yet, for all its quirks, “Drumhellar” manages to ground itself in reality to deliver a cohesive and intriguing mystery.
WRITTEN BY: Alex Link
ART BY: Riley Rossmo
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: November 6, 2013
The backstory behind the inception of “Drumhellar” is almost as interesting as the book itself. Rossmo knew he wanted to work with a rural setting, so he took a trip to the small town of Drumheller, Alberta where he collected reference imagery, interviewed locals, and sketched concept art for a week. The prep work shines through in both plotting and artwork, as you feel that you are a citizen of this little town.
Drum Hellar, a bohemian paranormal private eye, finds himself having to deal with “something big” that is coming, and the unknown forces that have stolen his “gear” (psychedelic drugs). In order to solve the case, he is forced to face ghosts from his past, including an imaginary cat friend, two ex-girlfriends (one of which is a werewolf), psychedelic drugs, a bog man, and some trees. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is, but somehow Link and Rossmo balance all these elements effortlessly. This is a dreamlike world, the likes of which Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte would be proud.
Drumhellar is the kind of book that asks you to expand your mind. This is a world where anything is possible and neither Link nor Rossmo are afraid to take you to the extremes. The opening pages set the bar for what’s to come, as Rossmo bring us along the ride for one of Hellar’s hallucinations. I’m a sucker for anything that recalls the surrealist movement, so this book had me from the solicitations alone. However, the execution of this first hallucination sequence shows that Link and Rossmo are both masters of their craft. They kick off the mystery and simultaneously introduce us to their off-kilter world.
As the issue continues, the story finds stands on firmer ground. Hellar shoots the shit with a greasy spoon waitress, offering some backstory, and then it’s off to his ex-girlfriends house to pick up some more plants. While the first few pages are expansive, the creative team reels it back to showcase this beautiful rural setting.
Hellar himself is one of the most intriguing lead characters I’ve encountered in some time, but it’s the supporting cast that tugs at my heart strings. His imaginary cat friend isn’t quite so imaginary, his ex-girlfriend is a skeptical naturopath, and the bog man is just downright creepy. Link and Rossmo find a perfect balance between mystery, horror, comedy, romance, and drama. Because they cover so much ground, it gives the story a certain expansiveness, and the sense that this is truly just the beginning of the weirdness.
Rossmo is at the top of his game. While that’s not really a surprise, I think this is his best work since “Green Wake”. It’s obvious that he put a lot of research into building this world, but his style is perfect for the reverie-packed world of “Drumhellar”. His panels are clean and simple when they need to be, which contrasts nicely with the uncanny hallucination/dream pages. Rossmo has solidified himself as one of the best in the industry, and this issue shows why.
“Drumhellar” proves that comics can do things other mediums can’t. It crosses multiple genres in a spacious world that teems with imagination and care from the creators. I have no idea where Link and Rossmo are going to take us, but you can bet I’ll be along for the ride.
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