By Dan James
152 pages, red and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Horror is a tricky genre, one that I think the majority of people who attempt have yet to master. So much of horror is psychological, meant to stir the emotions of its audience into unease, fright, and absolute terror. Often, it’s hard to explain why something worked other than, “It just creeped me out.” Reading Dan James’s new comic Mosquito, it was somewhere around the halfway point that I realized my body was subconsciously tightening up more and more as I turned the pages. With horror, that’s a good thing.

A man receives a series of photographs in the mail of dead people, ones that lead him to South America in search of their killer. Is there really a vampire lurking in the remote village, or something different? And is this nothing more than an elaborate trap, or will it be a message leading to the destruction of the mystery killer?

A wordless book, Mosquito is one of the few books where “silent” is truly an apt description for its contents. Mosquito reminds me of those old silent movies that’s just crackling with menace despite the fact that you can’t hear a word spoken, just that orchestral soundtrack played over the action. The story of Mosquito itself isn’t terribly complex, something necessary for the art style and method in which it’s told, but that’s all right. James’s book is less plot driven and more about the mood and feelings you get as you read it.

The art for Mosquito reminds me, bizarrely, of Larry Marder’s work on Tales of the Beanworld. Like Marder’s art, Mosquito is composed primarily of geometric shapes that are placed next to each other to form a larger identity. It’s almost like James cut up a ream of red and white construction paper into lots of tiny pieces and then pushed them all together to form his illustrations. It’s a beautiful, iconic look that can’t help but remind you almost of hieroglyphics or some other more primitive form of art. Best of all, James’s distinctive style really helps form the mood of Mosquito. This is a creepy little book, and images like the hero climbing the mountain of the creature take on a more sinister look when they’re little figures ascending an assemblage of red triangles. Even something as simple as a mosquito looks eerie and fear-worthy in the hands of James; he’s someone who clearly understands horror.

Those who take the time to look through Mosquito will, I suspect, be pleasantly surprised. Mosquito is a scary little book that succeeds in goal to unsettle the reader. Horror may be a difficult genre to succeed in, but James’s Mosquito does that quite nicely. If James wants to work on another book like this, I know I’ll be around for more.

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