In the weeks leading up to Halloween, I was lucky enough to find myself in possession of Issue 1 and 2 of Dead Peasant's Blood & Gourd comic book. By which I mean, they were kind enough to send me review copies. What I discovered within its pages was a witty, gory experience that fully encapsulates the Halloween season. Oh, and if you have a pumpkin spice latte nearby, I'd put it down... You never know where those pumpkins came from.
The basic concept, without spoiling the story, is that it's almost Halloween and there's a pumpkin growing contest on Henderson Farms; a family farm that is now being bought out by a big corporation up to no good. So, this pumpkin contest is the family's last weekend on the farm. This is basically Blood & Gourd's version of their "last night on the force before retirement." Naturally, things go wrong in the most unnatural way. Evil (and awesome) pumpkins.
Then, the entire farm, and all of its visitors – from the country folk that grew up there to the city mice that have travelled to reconnect or relax – are thrown into chaos. In the first two issues, this is Blood & Gourd.
The art and colours of the page immediately transported me to a place where Autumn is in full force, and every page is bursting with seasonal reds, oranges and yellow. It's perfect for setting the Halloween mood, as well as representing the season we all know and love in a small American farm.
Then, once I'd appreciated the style of the comic, and it's beautiful covers (seriously, dat issue 1 cover, tho), I noticed the writing. Not only did it give me a good idea of the characters, histories and motives - some of which I liked and respected, some of which I didn't - but it was also pretty damn funny. I learned my new favourite insult, "butt crumbs," and the humour kept the barrage of horror and gore (which I loved, of course) at a good pace. It never felt like I was drowning in gore, but able to jump from one stepping stone of humour and wit to the next, appreciating both without ever been consumed too fully by either. It was a perfect mix.
When the horror does take hold, though, it does it well. Pumpkins with teeth, necks being snapped, faces melting... Blood & Gourd has all of the good stuff, and it's drawn in great detail with bright colours and splash pages. Heaven.
One favourite moment, which I'll share, has a kid holding his Mum's hand. She's out of the panel and the kid is glancing around, unsure of whether the brutality around him is real or a Halloween show. He asks her. When he looks up, wondering why she hasn't replied, her head has been replaced by a pumpkin with teeth from the neck up. Then Kitty, a take-no-crap kind of protagonist, pitch-forks her through the chest. I loved it.
It's an amazing moment that reminded me why I love horror, but before long there was another joke, and it's this mix that keeps the comic flowing nicely. As Joss Whedon once said, "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
Issue 1 is a 48-page spectacle of autumnal horror, and Issue 2, while much shorter, continues the story in a speedy fashion, leaving the reader on the edge of their seats with a cliff-hanger that could have global repercussions. Issue 2 also starts with a short limerick, which reminded me of the shorter tales in the back of the Harrow County comics - known as "Tales of Harrow County." This showed that the creators could create a much darker tone if they desired, and it's something I'd be happy to see more of, either at the start or end of issues.
If you're on my blog, I can almost guarantee that you'd enjoy Blood & Gourd. It features a story that's perfect for the Halloween season and stirs together all of the best ingredients in one massive, indie-comic cauldron. Brutal deaths, drawn and coloured perfectly for maximum effect, combined with witty writing that keeps the pace flowing nicely from one petrifying page to the next, and a story where I'm excited to see what happens next. You should be, too.
Ready to carve some pumpkins? You find out more about Blood & Gourd on its website, or purchase the issues for yourself in print or digitally via Comixology. Go on. It's bloody gourd.