The Autumnal is the new horror series from Vault Comics Nightfall imprint/event, which every year debuts new horror series from September through December. This series by writer Daniel Kraus, artist Chris Shehan, colorist Jason Wordie, and letterer Jim Campbell is hard to ignore because of its eye-catching cover, so let's dive in and see how it reads.
It's so good.
The Autumnal follows Kat Somerville and her daughter Sybil as they leave a broken life in Chicago and travel to Comfort Notch, a small town in New Hampshire, with no plans other than to attend the funeral of Kat's mother. Not to mourn, but so Kat can look at the woman she hated one last time. She's in a healthy headspace, you see. Kraus does a brilliant job building both character and dread in this issue, pulling the reader into Kat and Sybil's life and instantly creating empathy for them. It's no coincidence that this issue references Stephen King's work by having Sybill read The Eyes of the Dragon. Like King, Kraus focuses on character and mood first and foremost, inviting the reader along for the ride.
And what a ride it is thanks to Shehan and Wordie's incredible artwork. Comfort Notch is, according to the welcome sign, "Home of America's Prettiest Autumn." Wordie's colors follow through on that promise perfectly, bathing the entire town in a glowing-ember red without ever overdoing it. Shehan builds the atmosphere perfectly from the angles chosen for each panel. The characters' facial expressions as they speak to each other, react, and experience this issue's events are thoughtful and artfully chosen. Letterer Jim Campbell, one of the best in the business, ties in all together with his perfectly placed dialogue balloons and captions.
Along with Dan Panosian and Marianna Ignazzi's An Unkindness of Ravens, The Autumnal is the best debut issue I've read in 2020 and perhaps the best single issue I've read from Vault, full stop.