It’s my favorite time of the year. The time of Halloween, horror movie marathons, and making sure your asshole neighbors didn’t put razorblades in the candy again this year. The air is getting cooler and it’s the perfect time of year to snuggle up in bed with a good book. But which book? That’s where I come in. Every day this month I’ll be suggesting a great horror comic series; some will be straight out tales of sheer terror, while others will be more subtle. We’ll have everything from vampires, zombies, werewolves, and witches, to stories of less defined horror. So join me for 31 Days of Horror Comics.
The Keep is based on F. Paul Wilson’s novel of the same name, and is adapted by the author himself. The original novel spawned a film directed by Michael Mann, but Wilson was never satisfied with it. He wrote the script for this series “Because I consider this visual presentation of The Keep my version of the movie, what could have been…what should have been.” Originally published as a five issue series, The Keep was collected in 2006.
The Keep concerns a castle in Romania, deep in the Transylvanian Alps, left empty for 500 years, and as WWII is just beginning a group of SS einsatzkommandos take the castle, awakening something horrific, something hungry, and something that staggers the imagination. What is more terrifying than the horrors of war? Whatever it is, it’s in The Keep.
The story is great, with plenty of gore and action, and surprisingly distills the source material’s essence perfectly, even if so much had to be cut due to the limitations of the medium. Wilson is a natural born comic writer, translating the prose into a visual medium masterfully, even with their very different sets of rules. The pacing is perfect, keeping a tense and steady rhythm all the way to the shocking ending. It is a riveting page turner, and a true horror classic in every way.
Matthew Dow Smith’s artwork is simple, yet effective, conveying the horror of not only the Nazi’s cruelty, but of what lies long buried within the stone walls of the keep. He uses a monochromatic style, with a heavy use of shadow and negative space, that is highly effective, especially when blood is spilled. The design of the book by Tom B. Long is fantastic and elegant, making the covers simply striking in appearance. The Keep was an instant classic when released in 1981, and this adaptation is just as classic.