'Deadbox' is No Analog Artifact
We press play on the new horror comic from Mark Russell and Benjamin Tiesma and discover a dreadfully familiar life experience.
Damn. I'm the mark for Deadbox. The new horror comic from Mark Russell and Benjamin Tiesma seems to have my childhood in its crosshairs. No joke. It's got me. Dead to rights.
In high school, there were days where all I had were video rentals. I'd wait for class to end, come home, drop my bag on the kitchen table, and point my parents in the direction of Video Library, Hollywood Video, Power Video, Blockbuster, wherever. If there was a shop slinging VHS, I was there in the stacks knee-deep.
It seems impossible to communicate video rental nirvana to an audience weaned on Netflix and streaming. Every movie seems available these days (although you'd be surprised what you can't get injected into your eyeballs instantaneously - Tom Cruise's Losin' It, what gives?). But, in my heyday, you made the rounds scarfing down entire aisles of horror, sci-fi, and international cinema. Hell, one time, I drove two hours south to Richmond because a clerk at Diabolik Video was holding a copy of Throne of Blood.
When the town you're trapped in feels like a noose around your neck, the VCR/DVD player operates as magnificently as the Stargate from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pressing play is an act of escape and that sorta feels like what's going on in Lost Turkey. The tiny burg and the bores that populate it are crushing our heroine, Penny. And the Deadbox rental unit planted in her father's convenience store provides diabolical relief.
Penny's father is dying. She's due back at college, but she can't leave him to rot in his bed, and someone has to monitor the store's register. With few viable options, Penny passes time with the films that pop from the Deadbox.
These are z-grade flicks. No, scratch that. They may not even be flicks at all. Penny can't find any record of their titles on IMDb or Google. Their performers are unfamiliar, but their plots are merely slightly askew, recalling better movies. And as their runtimes wind down, the films appear to contain a terrible knowledge about their audience. Can these tales be weaponized?
Benjamin Tiesma has the most fun jumping from Lost Turkey's dreadfully dull surroundings to the first rental's cosmic exploits. Inside the movies, his art adapts to their required genre, and it's a giddy visual tumble. One can easily imagine this sensation increasing exponentially as more films get yanked from the Deadbox, causing havoc.
By the first issue's end, Mark Russell pushes the evil rental box narrative away from an unknown malevolent force and unveils a painfully human motivation. Deadbox is only getting started with its ugliness, and Penny's plight is far more terrible than, "Gosh, this town is so boring." Where movies might have been my childhood savior, they could very well be her damnation.
Quickie Review: Deadbox, from Vault Comics, succeeds in capturing physical media's bygone era, but it's not mere nostalgia-porn. Russell and Tiesma explore the healthy and unhealthy relationship we have with stories; how they can succor deep wounds, and provide a sticky pit to disappear within. 8/10
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Benjamin Tiesma
Colorist: Vlad Popov
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover A: Benjamin Tiesma
Cover B: Corin Howell
Cover C: Robert Hack
On Sale: 9/8/21
Synopsis: You are what you watch.
Welcome to the town of Lost Turkey, where the main source of entertainment is a cursed DVD machine that seems to know more about the fate of its citizens than they do.