Bones of the Coast is a 220-page full-colour comic anthology of horror inspired by the Pacific Northwest, featuring indie cartoonists!
From bone-ragged mountaintops to seaweed tendrils in the deep, this horror anthology invokes themes of the Pacific Northwest with comic creators from British Columbia and beyond.
I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t, as a general rule, like when book reviews start with the words « I don’t generally read [genre]…. » but I am going to have to do it here. I don’t generally read horror, because gore grosses me out and I scare easily. But I am a big fan of comic anthologies and a Canadian (if from the other side of the continent), and it is with that in mind that I’m about to review Bones of the Coast.
Bones of the Coast is an awesome, scary, beautiful anthology and I have mixed feelings about it. Good mixed feelings! All of the stories contained inside are both interesting and, well, vaguely upsetting. Which was probably the point.
Some of these authors are names that are familiar to me, like Sfé R. Monster, whose art style was immediatelly recognizable after having read Beyond last year. In this anthology, they pair with Kalyna Riis-Philips to tell a story about bravery and magic in Don’t Go to the Island.
Others were completely new and awesome discoverie, with stories so intriguing (Shannon Campbell and Pam Wishbow’s The Harvest, for exemple, that both has a very attractive artstyle and a poetic storytelling) that I will be sure to check out these creator’s other works.
I have learned a lot of things about myself while reading this anthology. Mainly, that I am an idiot that reads scary stories before bedtime. You think that you’ll be fine, and individually each of these stories aren’t that creepy, but it’s when you read them all at once in the near dark and then go to sleep immediately after that you shoot yourself in the foot.
I have also learned that the stories that reflect recognizable elements of the real world (namely, Michael Elliott and Lindsay Ishihiro’s The Cove, which is a gorgeously illustrated story about the severed foots that tend to wash out on BC’s beaches, and Kelly Aarons’ Drag You Down, with happens on a ferry) are the scariest for me, and that my tendency to scrutinize each comic panels in order to see every tiniest details is a terrible, terrible habit to indulge in when reading horror (Emily Lampson’s comic Countenance is full of background details that I would have preferred to not know about).
This anthology also serves to show that every visual and narrative style can be used to make a great story. From Kevin Forbes and Reeta Linjama’s classic storytelling in The Logging Road to Sean Karemaker’s more stylistic approach in The Ghosts We Know, all of these stories are not just effective at, well, telling a story, but also at conveying an atmostphere, which is what more than half of what horror is about in the end. It’s not what the story tells you, it’s what it makes you feel.
As an indie anthology, Bones of the Coast is also full of diversity in both creators and stories, which I believe makes the stories all that more interesting. In some stories, like Christian Haruki Lett and Adam Tuck’s Site 17, this diversity (in the form of what I’m assuming to be a trans character) just goes unmentionned and uncommented, a obvious and normal part of the world; while in Jeff Ellis’ The Fu-go, the very fact that the story happens in a Canadian Japanese WWII interment camp already makes the reader feel disquieted, and the actual storytelling hasn’t even started yet. It’s a rich, complex setting that the author then masterfully uses to enrich their story.
I did notice, and was amused by, the fact that several of these comics had certain visual themes in common. That’s the fun of anthologies: you give a theme to several authors and artist and then see what they come up with. Oftentime it’s both a way to see the fun ways in which everyone differs in their interpretation of the theme, and also a way to see what doesn’t differ. The tropes, so to speak, that several stories share. Here you can see certain visual motifs come back again and again: eyes, teeth, hands, worms, darkness, and body transformation. Apparently those are scary for everyone, which I am glad to know. Fortunately, there weren’t any stories that were completely about teeth falling out, because then I would have never slept again.
Speaking of hands, a special shout-out to Renée Nault’s Sandpipers, from which comes the image used as the header for this post. This comic is both very pretty and also pretty creepy, which pisses me off a little. I wanna stare at is all day, but also, I don’t. This is what you did to me, Renée Nault. This is what you did to me.
In conclusion, I give that book four stars, because I would rec it but I probably wouldn’t re-read it in it’s entirety. Some of these stories, like Nina Matsumoto and Cameron Morris’ Free Ride, as well as Britt C.H and Nina Matsumoto’s The White Raven, should only be introduced to my sleep pattern once. (I’m side-eyeing you hard, Nina Matsumoto.) I will, however, lend it to those of my friends that are less easily scared than me and see what they make of it.