TRADE RATING: Cullen Bunn’s Witch Hammer is brutal and beautiful

AfterShock Comics’ first OGN, Witch Hammer, is out now.

By Hussein Wasiti — In my adventures through Comics Twitter, I’ve frequently come across praise for writer Cullen Bunn, who recently penned AfterShock Comics first original graphic novel, Witch Hammer. My familiarity with Bunn and his work extends only to his Big Two comics, and I’ve been anxious to check out some of his other comics for a while. After reading Witch Hammer, I’m glad I did. While there’s nothing wrong with Bunn’s more mainstream work, this story just completely elevated my perception of him as a storyteller, so much so that I’m now inspired to seek out more of his independent work. Witch Hammer is bloody, brutal, and beautiful, with a message that might leave your skin crawling after you put the book down.

Witch Hammer is a horror story that follows Agent Ada Frontenac and her partner Agent Guinness as they investigate a series of gruesome murders, which they believe are all tied into some kind of cult. As it turns out, the truth surrounding the case is something that Frontenac and her partner have a hard time grappling with, especially when they learn who exactly is carrying out these murders and why this man is on his quest for revenge. Our two main characters are ultimately Frontenac herself and the killer, Jacob Nance. Both of their journeys are tied together without the other truly realizing this to be the case.

Frontenac is clearly a woman of faith, albeit one who is struggling with her beliefs. She’s been investigating murders for a while, and her introduction is very deftly handled by artist Dalibor Talajic in a beautiful nine-panel page, one of the few in the book. Bunn doesn’t explicitly state what is going through her head, but Talajic’s deft and efficient storytelling gives readers just enough visual context to understand her headspace. Frontenac overall comes across as a hopeful person who believes justice will be done and those who deserve salvation will receive it. This results in a very personal kind of conflict for her since the longer she investigates murders, the more she questions this line of belief. Her first page features her throwing her cross necklace on her bed, where it lands atop a gruesome crime scene photo. It’s a stark juxtaposition and the perfect encapsulation of not just this comic, but the state of mind of this main character.

I was blown away by Talajic’s work throughout. I’d only previously read his Foolkiller series over at Marvel, but his panelling and overall storytelling was very strong. He uses a lot of panels per page, with an average of around seven or eight, and sometimes as many as eleven. With this, the storytelling was very focused and overall he made great economical use of space. I described his layouts as deft and efficient earlier, and that applies to his entire approach to this story. There is a lot of violence in this book, executed by the characters almost dismissively, and the numerous and precise panel layouts contribute to this element of the story in a really exact manner.

Talajic’s layouts are very restrictive, and readers may find themselves feeling claustrophobic. This could very well be the Talajic’s intention—to create a feeling of cramped unease with the layouts. There are some nine-panel pages here that Talajic lays out a bit differently than one would expect, which I found incredibly refreshing due to many modern artists rarely using the nine-panel page in a substantial way. Sebastijan Camagajevac’s amazing coloring also sets the tone of the story perfectly, while letterer Marshall Dillon deserves substantial credit for managing to render the panels readable, due to their cramped sizes.

The carefully-vague nature of the story somewhat leaves the ending up to interpretation. Bunn is dealing with heavy themes in this book, namely the lines between religion and violence, and whether one intentionally or unintentionally begets the other. What lines can we cross before coming to some semblance of inner peace? When blinded by false promises, who are we to blame: ourselves, or those who lead us on our path to begin with?

Witch Hammer is pretty wonderful, although some who are squeamish to violence may want to steer clear. There are some truly horrifying images (it is a horror comic, after all) that some readers will not appreciate. I myself enjoyed it all quite a bit. Cullen Bunn’s compelling and horrific storytelling combined with Dalibor Talajic’s tight and suspenseful art have given us my favorite comic so far this year.

Witch Hammer
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Colorist: Sebastijan Camagajevac
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Released: Dec. 19, 2018

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Hussein Wasiti is a history undergraduate with an intense passion for comics. You can find his weekly writings over at, and periodically on He is on Twitter as bullthesis, and lives in Toronto with his hordes of comics.

REVIEW: Cold Spots #2 by Cullen Bunn, Mark Torres, & Simon Bowland

Cold Spots #2 is out 9/26.

By Bo Stewart — In just two issues, Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres have firmly established the eerie atmosphere of Cold Spots. Everything in this comic simply feels cold. The colors invoke moods of winter, the characters are distant and evasive, and, of course, ghosts linger in the background, ramping up the creepiness. While I am interested in the larger narrative, the real draw of Cold Spots for me is this spine-chilling ambiance. If you’re a fan of stories like The Shining, Insomnia, or Shutter Island, you should definitely be reading this comic.

Every scene is littered with unease, and Bunn expertly builds tension before each major scare. At its heart, Cold Spots is a ghost story, one with infrequent use of the ghosts that makes their eventual appearance more effective. Both of the splash pages with ghosts in this issue haunted me for hours, long after I’d put the comic down. If that’s not effective storytelling, I don’t know what is. It’s also worth mentioning that the ghosts’ designs are frightening and well-imagined.  

The unease of the atmosphere also extends to the characters, and Bunn gives us plenty of reason to doubt their motivations. Everyone has a hidden agenda or secrets to protect or both. The main protagonist, private investigator Dan Kerr, is no exception. One of the major reveals of this issue is that Grace, the girl Kerr has been hired to locate, is in fact his daughter. Grace’s role in the unnatural cold will be one of the big mysteries of the arc. I have always been a sucker for stories that use creepy kids effectively, and Grace certainly fits that bill.  

Torres’ visuals perfectly compliment the script, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this issue. The gothic setting is gorgeously rendered with the scenes on Quarrels’ Island being a stand out. We are told that it is the dead of summer but the art exudes cold feelings of winter. This adds to the general sense of unease and disconnect. Even if you can’t see the ghosts, on page, you can feel their presence lingering just off panel. This is storytelling through atmosphere at its best.

Unlike a lot of horror comics that use gore and shock values as the foundation for their scares, Cold Spots instead finds value in leaving much of the story unexplained. We don’t know where these ghosts are from, we don’t know what their intentions are. Hell… we don’t even really know what they look like. It feels as if anything can happen at any moment. Bunn and Torres lean on tension, atmosphere, and the unexplained to build horror. This is a slower burn, but I have every inclination that the real scares are just getting started.

Overall: Cold Spots has managed to establish a perfectly-eerie mood with only two issues. The visuals and characters here all support the same chilly vibe, and the end result is a great Halloween season read. 8.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

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.

REVIEW: Bone Parish #3 by Cullen Bunn, Jonas Scharf, Alex Guimaraes, & Ed Dukeshire

Bone Parish #3 is out 9/26.

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

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

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.

REVIEW: Cold Spots #1 by Cullen Bunn, Mark Torres, & Simon Bowland

Cold Spots #1 is out Aug. 22, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — Cullen Bunn is prolifically establishing himself as comics’ foremost purveyor of horror, and Cold Spots #1 is another title likely to bolster that reputation. In this opening issue, Bunn takes a minimalist approach to introducing characters and exposition, using a few small exchanges and revelations to hint at larger backstories. For the most part, this first issue concerns itself with ambiance, as well as with enabling Mark Torres’ artwork to really shine.

Although, shine is probably the wrong word for linework as alternatingly foreboding and forlorn as we get here. Simply put, Torres’ art in Cold Spots is beautiful, perfect for this story. The highlight of all of it is the use of color. Afternoons in rural locales, late nights in cities, even rooms for individual meetings—they all get their own palettes, palettes that go a long way toward influencing how the scenes in Cold Spots read and feel. There’s even a scene wherein color shifts based on a character’s (questionable) decision. It’s absolutely fantastic work from Torres.

The setting is also an interesting facet of Cold Spots. Between this book and other recent work (thinking specifically of Bone Parish with Boom! Studios), Bunn continues to tell stories about less-heralded regions of the United States, regions often ignored by television shows and movies,where problems in real life have made them ideal for explorations of the supernatural and occult, beset as they are by job loss and our worsening national opioid crisis (which, to be fair, is a problem everywhere). Anyway, Bunn has tapped into this as of late to emphasize the gothic qualities of places that range from Louisiana to the heartlands to (as in this story) North Carolina, telling tales of phantoms and wispy ghouls and the undead.

Cold Spots #1 is in the end a pretty and spry read, one that tears through its opening chapter while doling just enough exposition to further its mystery. The characters are shallow-yet-believable so far, letting the creative team provide a fantastic hook for readers along with a set of stunning and scary artwork. This is ultimately a five-part series, and I’d be surprised if the vast majority of folks who pick up #1 don’t end up sticking around for the duration.

Overall: A traditional supernatural mystery, Cold Spots #1 is another story from writer Cullen Bunn that uses horror motifs to chronicle forlorn pockets of the United States often ignored in television and film. This is a brief yet beautiful comic, and Mark Torres’ work with colors in particular is not to be missed. 8.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.