Door to Door, Night by Night #1 (Vault Comics)

30 pgs. full color | $4.99 | W: Cullen Bunn | A: Sally Cantirino | C: Dee Cunniffe

Former St. Louisan Cullen Bunn’s bibliography contains lengthy runs at Marvel and DC, but he’s always found his true home with horror, dating from his very first books like the demon noir The Damned and the weird Western The Sixth Gun (both with artist Brian Hurtt, published by Oni Press) to the critically acclaimed Harrow County (with artist Tyler Crook, published by Dark Horse). His latest series Door to Door, Night by Night, released today by Vault Comics under their Nightfall horror imprint, finds Bunn exploring familiarly freaky territory.

Hitchhiking along a wooded road, Max gets picked up by Will and his cohort of “burnouts, rejects, drifters, and lost causes,” a crew that goes door-to-door making fundraising sales for local fire departments that they get to keep a cut of. Needing some fast cash, Max decides to join up with the crew for their next job in the fictional town of Jenner Hills, West Virginia. When one particular house looks off to her, Max returns at night to take a closer look. When she doesn’t come back, her new friends follow her and make a horrifying discovery. Just what that discovery is I’ll let you see for yourself, but the big news is that, it turns out, Max isn’t just a hitchhiker: she’s a monster hunter, monsters are real, and they are everywhere if you know where to look. And now that they know, her new friends will never look at the doors they knock on each day the same way again.

First issues of an ongoing series have to do a lot of heavy-lifting to both set up the premise for the further story while also operating as a satisfying chunk of story in their own right. Bunn hits the right balance by doling out his information carefully. We learn Max’s one big secret because that’s what drives the overall series plot, but he also serves up lots of bits of information about her back story that are just tantalizing enough to make you want to stick around to learn more. Since he puts the emphasis rightly on Max, the supporting cast are still more archetypal and less developed at this stage, but there’s enough hints dropped about them that there will clearly be more to explore in their back stories as well. They’re an interesting mix of characters—fast-talking redneck, college dropout, alcoholic preacher, to name a few—that seems sure to provide fireworks later as well.

Click to enlarge.

This is artist Sally Cantirino’s third series for Vault, following I Walk with Monsters with writer Paul Cornell and Human Remains with Peter Milligan. Bunn, Cornell, and (especially) Milligan all have Vertigo credits under their belts, and turn-of-the-century-Vertigo is exactly the vibe that Cantirino’s art gives the proceedings of Door to Door. To match their varied attitudes and backgrounds, Cantirino’s characters also have widely varied physiques and body language, captured with a loose, lightly cartooned style that recalls Vertigo mainstays like Ryan Kelly or Peter Gross. Her storytelling is clear and deliberate but mostly not very showy, filled as it is with establishing shots and middle distance shots that make the unexpected bursts of horror leap out all the more. Colorist Dee Cunniffe helps set the mood with a naturalistic color palette of mostly earthy greens and browns that gives the rural 1980s setting an appropriate dustiness, though he’s not afraid to change things up with some nice blue-hued nighttime scenes, or the rusty reds that permeate the more monstrous scenes.

Vault Comics publishes a lot of shorter series, but Door to Door, Night by Night has the kind of premise tailor-made for an ongoing series. It seems only natural for Max and her new Scooby Gang to continue traveling from town to town, meeting new people and discovering new horrors along the way. This premiere issue offers up enough mystique to support a long, long series. Let’s hope it finds a large enough audience to earn one. | Jason Green

Click here for a 12-page preview of Door to Door, Night by Night #1, courtesy of AIPT and Vault Comics.

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