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 Post subject: Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward #2 advance review from SHF (UK)

Missing since: 11 May 2007
Notes left: 126
Last seen at: San Diego, California, USA
All--

More kind words for SILENT HILL: SINNER'S REWARD, this time an advance review of issue #2 by the Silent Hill Forum (UK) -- Vixx with have the official Silent Hill Heaven review posted soon, too. 

Here's the text to the SHF review:

ISSUE NO.2! Exclusive SHF PREVIEW.

I have been fortunate enough to have been allowed a sneak peak of issue no.2 of Tom Waltzes and Steph Stamb’s comic Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward and so once again I thought I’d share my review with you!

I must admit, it does seem slightly odd to preview the second issue when the first hasn’t been released yet, but I’m told it may ‘stimulate interest’ so uh… *ahem* prepare to be stimulated!

As a consequence – I may well be referring back to an issue you haven’t even read yet so there will be some small spoilers, but I will try to keep those and certain plot details to a minimum.

SPOILERS

Unlike the set-up of the inaugural comic, this issue is clearly divided into two parts. Rather than dive straight into the cliff-hanger of what happened when we entered Silent Hill proper last month (as it were…) Tom decides to tease us by leaving that hanging in the air for a while. Instead, we jump around the timeline a fair bit and since this story effectively revolves around a love triangle – of Jack (our protagonist – the hit-man on the run), Jill (her lover and his bosses wife) and Mr. Conway (yup, Mr. Big himself… and not ‘a pail of water’ as you may have expected ) we delve into a little bit of their respective history and characters.

Structurally, this is a bit ambitious for a comic as we traverse three different time lines and even more locations in the space of just ten pages. However, it does flow very well and this is in no small part thanks to Steph’s artwork, which utilises a different colour palette for each jump we make. And frankly – this type of storytelling uses a certain amount of restraint and presumes a certain amount of maturity in the reader, which is a welcome notion here.

Still, you can’t keep the audience on tenterhooks forever and the second half of the comic is where ‘Silent Hill’ delivers. I suppose what comes to mind most here is Vincent’s infamous comment to Heather in Silent Hill 3 “They look like monsters to you?” only Tom dips into this possibility a bit more than the aforementioned game. Steph displays his most atmospheric work here as a certain locale in Silent Hill will seem very familiar as the story takes quite a nice psychological twist, when in actual fact it’s Jill who discovers Jack after the intervention of one of Silent Hill’s own 'monsters'.

This is the best bit of writing in the comic and utilises a rather clever structural device. You see, unlike last issue, Jack is not displayed as a particularly sympathetic character at all – which is quite a risky thing to do when he’s the narrator. However, Jill’s intervention here provides her with an (admittedly, sorely needed) extra dimension and more crucially – she provides the humanity in this issue.

It’s quite intense though and this is where the reader really gets involved. Suddenly you're forced to question who you are rooting for, is it Jack – his moll – or even perhaps Silent Hill itself? All this is confounded by the fact that it’s not entirely clear just what each party wants here… as emotionally the sands begin to shift under them. So in other words: so far, so good!

It all feels nicely claustrophobic, but it ends with a hint of possible redemption for Jack in the final scene when a mysterious teenage girl is calling for his help. Jack’s exclamation and Steph’s pencils on the last page hint at (though perhaps its just that) the realm of religion entering the fray for the first time.

On the whole, this issue feels like it’s been a tricky one to write as - unlike you would normally expect in a four issue mini-series – all the cards are clearly not on the table yet. However, it does pay off and this is in no small part thanks to the chemistry between writer and artist. Pages of exposition-filled dialogue are interspersed with Steph’s splash pages which breaks things up nicely. Again, I think it’s to Tom’s credit that he’s still able to use restraint in his pacing of the story (this far in) and also for not letting Steph quite off the leash yet - as his obvious keenness to illustrate the ‘flora and fauna’ of Silent Hill will no doubt blossom in full later on. In short, both clearly have far more cards up their sleeve!

Thankfully the story seems to be rather more elaborate than the equation: ‘Bad Guy + Silent Hill = Comeuppance. Sprinkle with Pyramid head and bake for four issues.’ Silent Hill here seems to be more about the emotional journey it’s visitors embark on, the route of which even they themselves (and us) are unsure of.

Right! Now I’ve got all that flattery out of my system for getting another free peek – are there any potential problems? Well, as previously hinted at – the first half can seem a little bit exposition heavy at times as occasionally the dialogue can feel like it came out of the author’s mouth rather than his character’s. However, it’s a very small price to pay for taking a much needed ‘writerly’ approach to Silent Hill. Steph’s structural use of colour is superb and his dedication to the kind of tight angles that you can only get away with in comics are usually excellent.

However, my main concern is his depiction of the mysterious girl towards the end – with her purple fringe and brightly coloured top, you’d be forgiven for having flashbacks to the goth girls of Dying Inside (and weren’t we just!), but we shall see what develops. Admittedly, there’s only so many ways you can illustrate a ‘man in car at night’ and I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a flaccid exhaust pipe or hidden monster under the motor at one point (turns out it was Jacks foot! ) and maybe vases do double for pint glasses in Boston pubs, but I’m putting on my Simon Cowell hat here (must burn that!) I’m really stretching to find faults, basically the artwork is first rate and Steph’s creation of a Silent Hill creature is very respectfully done.

It may not quite reach the heights of comics such as Criminal or Fell (what does?), but then this is a slightly different genre. Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward takes a little bit from the realm of each and crucially, it’s certainly able to hold it’s head up high in such distinguished company. Which believe me, is no small feat.

Well, once more that just leaves me to thank those involved for letting me have another sneaky peak of their comic on behalf of the Silent Hill Forums here and fingers crossed that issues can be found in the shops sometime soon. So you may just find out for yourself what the hell I’ve been going on about.

_________________
Tom Waltz
Senior Staff Writer / Editor
IDW Publishing
http://www.idwpublishing.com


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