Book Review – Silent Hill Comics (Part I) by Scott Ciencin

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Paranormal
Demographic: Older Teen / Adult
Publication Date: October 14th, 2008
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Silent Hill is one of my eternal favourite video game series. The original quartet in my opinion is something of a “heaven experience” – beautiful but tense. It is the closest I feel we’ve come to an interactive nightmare that anyone could have right in their living room. The fact that everyone interprets the quartet so differently and yet tends to love it dearly the same can attest to that. It’s strangely personal for a lot of people, something a video game doesn’t typically manage. Why is this, do you think?

Silent Hill is entertaining first and foremost, but it was also an (underappreciated) innovator in serious, mature themes for the medium and dealt heavily with religious abuse, depression, childhood trauma and suicide with a thin coat of surreal horror. Plus the format gives a sense of venturing into someone else’s inner, secret dreams and decoding them. It catches people off-guard, in the best way.

If you’re familiar with Silent Hill already, then you’re aware there can be a lot of… iffiness with its spin-offs. At best, you get something rare and amazing like Shattered Memories, and at worst you get an endless stream of pachinko machines coming out your ears.

The comics are a mixed bag but far from unholy. The second omnibus is loads better, but the first omnibus does have consistently good art and a few interesting stories.
If you are not familiar with it and thinking the comics would be a place to begin Silent Hill‘s story, that may not be a good idea. Unless you just love horror comics for what they are and want to try them out for that reason, the original quartet or the first film would be worlds better. Shattered Memories or Origins wouldn’t be bad either.

You can in fact go into the first omnibus not knowing anything about the series at all and it won’t make much difference. I promise. Omnibus II has somewhat to do with the series’ canon, but these comics included in I eschew it.

My general consensus with Omnibus I is that it’s frustrating but readable. They totally ignored everything established by the series. Despite having full rights to do whatever they wanted!
However… the art is impressionistic and often pretty, and if you ignore that it’s supposed to be Silent Hill they are much better as stand-alone comics. The short stories in the middle are really fun. The physical book is also of very high quality materials.

Now that I’ve rambled on forever, here’s a quick rundown of each:

★★★ 3.5 Stars

A doctor brings one of his patients to Silent Hill as part of some experimental therapy trying to aid her anxiety. For some reason the town’s abandoned in the comics, though in canon it’s an active tourist trap, but whatever. Dying Inside has a decent story idea and the art is beautiful – particularly in the second half. The aggravating sailor-mouthed, off-brand version of Alessa nearly ruins it though.

★★★★ 4 Stars

Three Bloody Tales is by far the best one. “Paint it Black”, about a horror artist who finds himself trapped in the town’s Otherworld was wild and entertaining. This also includes “The Grinning Man” and “Among the Damned”, both of which are enjoyable. “Among the Damned” is similar to Silent Hill 2 with themes of temptation and regret and I believe it’s my favourite.

★★ 2.5 Stars

The horrible little brat that nearly ruined Dying Inside is back to actually ruin this comic. Um… I think the cover illustration is neat, and the art’s alright, but as a whole Dead/Alive in underdeveloped and annoying. It doesn’t make sense and I wish they had just written a story starring Alessa. If they wanted a tormented, supernatural young girl as a protagonist, the series already had one.

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