The Deviant #1
As snow falls over Milwaukee in 1972, a blood-stained Santa Claus commits unimaginable atrocities against young men. Fifty years later, a troubled young writer interviews this so-called "Deviant Killer," who still maintains his innocence from behind bars. And as Christmas approaches once again, the past returns, wielding a sharpened ax.
A good horror story sets a mood from the start. Tension grows until the truly scary part arrives. This can be fast or drawn out. But setting the mood is important. That’s largely what The Deviant #1 does, and it does it very well.
It’s Christmas time in Chicago when The Deviant #1 begins. Kids are sitting on Santa’s lap. Adults dressed as elves are taking pictures. And Michael and Derek are milling about, shopping. Michael is bothered, ruminating on how he’s lost his gift wrapping skills over the years and how it bothers him on a strangely fundamental level.
The issue then cuts to Christmas time in Milwaukee in 1973. A store employee realizes she’s forgotten her keys and returns after closing time. Her coworker Eddie lets her in, giving her a hard time about forgetting the keys again. The woman tracks down her keys before hearing noises that draw her further into the dark store. Late at night, police arrive at a barn and discover two dead, mutilated boys. They track down the apparent killer: someone tall and thin dressed as Santa Claus.
Returning to the present finds Michael talking to the boys’ convicted murderer in jail, gathering information for something he’s writing. The murderer, Randall, explains his motives before flipping the conversation on Michael and discussing his past. Meanwhile, something is wrong back at the mall.
The plot in The Deviant #1 is largely opaque, which is not unusual for the first issue of Tynion’s horror series. Another staple of his work is knowing when to use text and when not to. A lot of Tynion’s script relies on the art to advance the story. The first three pages, none of them splashes, have no dialogue. The silence pulls the reader in, demanding that they pay attention which works later in the issue when the dialogue gets introspective, full of subtext as it nears the end. Additionally, one character key to the end of the story is evident in the early panels but may be forgotten by readers who are not paying attention.
Michael’s development is equally on a slow burn. Ostensibly the series’ main character, he’s introduced during the first dialogue exchange (with his partner Derek). Multiple scenes featuring Michael feel uneasy, and that starts with this opening moment where he delivers a monologue about wrapping presents. When he was first taught to wrap them, he could do it with no problem. As time passed, though, the skill deteriorated. It’s a benign enough conversation early in the issue but feels like a metaphoric harbinger as the issue goes on.
The conversation with Randall especially bears out this feeling of unease. The apparent killer ties Michael’s sexual self-discovery to deviant and disturbing behavior. Suddenly Michael feels less ordinary, and his inability to do something ordinary (like wrapping presents) takes on a new cast.
The Deviant #1’s script confers a lot of responsibility on Hixson. As stated earlier, Tynion’s script relies on a lot of silent panels over the course of the issue. The opening panels, taking place in the bright, soft light of a shopping mall, have almost a still-life quality. Hixson uses vivid but not overly bright colors for clothing and decorations on the mall’s interior and an almost pastel purple for a vague background. The warmth remains as the scene extends into the dialogue exchange between Derek and Michael. Hixson doesn’t use a lot of shading on characters through this section, and when he does it’s light lines rather than thick fields of black.
The one exception is the final panel in this scene, after Michael’s discussion about not being able to wrap presents and his statement that he feels something is wrong with him. Hixson uses heavier, thicker black shading on the right side of Michael’s face and his right eye.
Most of the issue takes place in darker settings where Hixson employs heavier shading resulting in more detail (perhaps counterintuitively because of the relative brightness in the scenes). This level of detail in ugly moments with ugly people, as well as using not just darker shades but a cold feeling color palette in general, is an integral part of the mood the issue sets.
Otsmane-Elhaou makes a subtle choice with a sound effect in The Deviant #1. The issue is mostly quiet from a lettering point of view. The huge exception is the sound the killer Santa Claus makes. The text is white, always set against a dark background, and the rough edges make it look like it was etched into the very page of the comic.
Horror fans will find a lot to like here. Certainly there is the horror imagery such as the mutilated bodies and the rail thin killer Santa Clause. The flashback to Michael’s childhood where deviant activities, pardon the pun, became tied up with Maichel’s developing identity is ugly because of modern day events. And main character Michael…is somehow not right. The Deviant #1 is horror meant to disturb and discomfort. It succeeds at both.
The Deviant #1: Gift Wrapping and Murder
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
User Review( votes)