The Grinning Mask Issue 3
By Ryan Taylor
The Grinning Mask is Ryan Taylor’s 50s infused English country horror saga. Think Tales Of The Unexpected by way of The Wicker Man with a healthy mix of old EC Comics in there as well.
We’ve been introduced to horror comic loving Jack and the peaceful little village he lives in, we’ve seen the reverend discovering a secret previously bricked up room with an ancient corpse in his church, and we’ve learned a little of the background to this corpse; the village’s fool and jester in days gone by.
Meanwhile, the children are having weird nightmares about the mask. Something bad is coming, you can feel it building.
And some of that came out last issue, with villagers coming face to face with terrifying sights, all accompanied by that grinning mask, and everyone of these nightmares has a familiar feel, scenes replayed from the comics Jack and his mates read.
As the final panel in issue 2 tells us…
Okay, that’s you up to date. I enjoyed issues 1 & 2 (reviews here and here) and although there were some faults over the pacing and dialogue, there’s a lot of promise in The Grinning Mask, especially with the really well evoked character and characters of the village. And in the mask itself Taylor’s found something really visually striking and plain spooky.
There’s a real sense of approaching dread capturing the village, and that continues really well into this third issue. Fear is all about, the village in a panic, strange stories abound, and the reverend is making enquiries into the history of the man behind the Grinning Mask and finds a history of murderous insanity…
Turns out Archibald Sommers was a drifter, settling into the village some time in the middle ages, nasty and violent, harbouring ever growing resentment at his treatment, resentment that seemed to twist his mind completely out of shape. Claiming the spirit of the giant elm that stood in the graveyard spoke to him, he fashions a mask from its bark and sets out as the village jester.
But the laughter wasn’t enough it seems….
The whole issue flicks between the modern village and the past, telling of Sommers’ murderous spree, eventual capture, and bricking up in the church against the backdrop of the village now coming to grips with the horror that seems to be stalking them.
A deal is struck in Sommers’ tomb, a deal that needs a long, long time to come about, waiting until the imaginations of the children are fuelled by horrific things… things like those comics young Jack reads. Oh dear. Not good.
Except reading it IS good. There’s an unsettling tone that works well, the pacing’s tightened up now and we get a satisfying story with some nicely done artwork. Except there’s a big problem for me. And it may just be for me, but the last sequence, where the voice in Sommers’ cell is given grotesque, almost Lovecraftian form just overplays its hand. I would have thought far better to leave a little to our imagination, leave the voice in his head as maybe just a voice in his head, maybe something more sinister?
But like I say, that may just be me. And then there’s Jack and his mate, who still think it’s a good idea to go vampire hunting after dark in the graveyard…. kids, eh? there’s no telling ’em sometimes. But the results of that I imagine we’ll see next issue.