By Bo Stewart — Cullen Bunn is one of the best horror writers in comics. He excels at creating horrific scenarios, using touches of both the surreal as well as the ordinary. One of the best things about Bone Parish’s premise is that it allows Bunn to engage readers on both of those levels. We see surreal horror through the hallucinogenic properties of Ash (the drug at the story’s core), and we also see the more traditional, real-life horrors that led the Winter family to pursue drug production. Bone Parish #3 further examines these everyday horrors, showing how out of their league the Winter family has truly become.
A power struggle at the top continues to ail the Winters. The thing is, neither Grace (matriarch and current leader) nor her underboss/son Brae are particularly up to the task of running the family business. Grace’s loneliness leads her to seek attention in destructive ways. She abuses Ash, which allows her to relive the companionship provided to her by her deceased husband, while at the same time she is also romantically courting a would-be buyer of their operation.
Brae, meanwhile, excels at running day-to-day operations but foolishly shares trade secrets with an untrustworthy cop. Both Grace and Brae want to run the family business, but neither appear to have the acumen to run it effectively. With the cartel breathing down their necks, the Winters are starting to see exactly how steep the cost for maintaining control of Ash will be. It’s a great predicament, one that’s really driving this series forward.
Problems with the business of the drug trade aside, in Bone Parish #3 we also start to see that no one truly understands the drug Ash itself. As we saw in #1, Ash is mysterious, capable of duplicating the life events of the dead. But what if Ash can also show us the thoughts of the living? As the drug’s creator, Lucien, says, what we do here…will give us control over both life and death. We can live forever. Our protagonists the Winters, however, don’t understand the potential of what they’re selling, and they stand to pay a steep price for their ignorance.
This is a good place to mention the expert coloring from Alex Guimaraes. Most of the New Orleans setting in this book is colored with shades of green that lend an uneasy vibe to the Big Easy setting. The scenes where a character is abusing Ash utilize an alluring color palette of blues and purples. The end result is a simple message: Ash, good…real world, bad. Ash is selling at a rapid rate and the coloring helps inform why that’s the case by conveying how it makes its users feel.
We haven’t had a truly terrifying image since Winter Family dealer, Dante, was eaten alive during a bad Ash trip. But every panel in Bone Parish #3 is littered with tension as the stakes continue to rise with each issue. The tight linework from Jonas Scharf is crucial in making those stakes feel compelling and real.
Overall: In Bone Parish #3, the ramifications of dealing Ash are catching up with the Winters family quickly, making for a compelling and tense issue that shows readers exactly how woefully unprepared the protagonists of this story are for the challenges to come. 8.5/10
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Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros.