PRE-ORDER: 'Until My Knuckles Bleed' by Victor Santos

REVIEW: 'We Don't Kill Spiders' #1 by Joseph Schmalke

Vikings. Witches. Murder. Magic. A supernatural thriller involving a serial killer has a skeptical detective and a vengeful witch on the hunt in one of this month's best debuts. 

WE DON'T KILL SPIDERS #1

Writer: Joseph Schmalke

Artist: Joseph Schmalke

Letters: DC Hopkins

Publisher: Scout Comics

Release Date: August 4, 2021

Cover Price: $3.99

Black Caravan Imprint: In the early Viking Age, a faithless Norseman detective is summoned to a Scandinavian hamlet where a series of murders have occurred. Discovering the dark and bloody history of the village he investigates the local outcast, a necromantic witch who brings his atheistic values into question. Determined to prevent further homicides the two band together to discover the identity of a serial killer.

Score:

★★★★★ (5/5)

Stories set in the age of Vikings are very popular. There have been numerous television shows and comics related to the subject one way or another. 'We Don't Kill Spiders' is squarely planted in that era but Joseph Schmalke has taken a familiar setting and reinvented it by blending in a murder investigation by an unlikely investigator. 

Bjorn the Faithless is an atheist at a time when the Vikings revere their gods and only hope to reach Valhalla one day. He's been summoned by Jarl Ulf to investigate the slaughter of five families in his village. Decapitated and their heads taken, the murders appear to be a part of some sadistic ritual based on the runes left behind. Ulf speculates the killer is a witch who was exiled as a child after Ulf had her family executed for witchcraft. Bjorn, ever the skeptic, believes her to be innocent and she volunteers to help him find the killer to the chagrin of the Jarl. 

There are so many layers at play in 'We Don't Kill Spiders' from the shocking violent murders, the supernatural aspect of witches, to the conflicting philosophies regarding religion, and of course the procedural part of the investigation. Schmalke offers up a tasty 7-course meal of a story making this first issue an engrossing and fascinating blend of genres with well-rounded characters. It's an impressive feat in a debut issue. It's sort of like 'Vikings,' 'X-Files,' and 'Law and Order,' had a baby and out came 'We Don't Kill Spiders.'   

As an artist, Schmalke again sets the perfect tone with a scratchy style that depicts the story in an aged historical setting while adding moody shadowy scenes. It's almost "Viking-noir" as it captures the darkness of the crimes in a world full of distrust and skepticism regarding this unlikely pair of detectives. The color palette is subdued, for the most part, exteriors are pretty somber but interior settings get a burst of color. It all feels pretty intimate and with a suspenseful premise like this, it helps to build tension as the investigators uncover clues at the crime scene. Revna as a necromancer has to wield her powers to reveal even more clues and it's spectacularly well displayed. 

'We Don't Kill Spiders' #1 is one of this month's best debuts as it takes Viking-era storytelling to new surprising heights as a supernatural crime thriller. An engrossing murder mystery with two unlikely detectives who are complete opposites creates a dynamic and appealing team. Schmalke has a winner on his hands and should not be missed. 

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