At its core, “Survivors’ Club” #1 is a book that takes a dash of horror tropes and dangles a common thread between them. Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly have a lot of work ahead of them in tying these disparate ideas together, although Kelly’s art is ultimately the great equalizer.
Beukes and Halvorsen’s basic premise for “Survivors’ Club” is certainly intriguing, enough to buy a certain amount of goodwill from the reader. They introduce us to six different characters, each with a mysterious and horrific past that continues to dog them to this day. This is both a strength and a weakness. On the plus side, Beukes and Halvorsen have a lot of different ideas to play with, with everything from demon-summoning video games to a haunting presence only seen in reflections. On the other hand, it’s a lot of ground to cover in a single issue, which means that most of them are little more than glimpses and brief hints. As a result, it’s hard to get a grasp on most of the characters assembled here.
The notable exception is Zira, whose history gets a four-page spotlight as we learn of the strange, hellish arcade game she uncovered in South Africa in 1987. Zira’s narration gives us a little peek into her life and, while it focuses primarily on the gateway to hell that seems to have opened up, what we learn about her family life is ultimately more interesting and intriguing because it’s starting to flesh her out.
Hopefully, we’ll see some more of each of our cast members in future issues along these lines; there’s a lot of potential here as we dip into their lives, after all.
Kelly’s pencils are as consistent as ever, producing realistic figures in a wide variety of situations. The script doesn’t give him a ton to play with — a lot of his characters sit around a living room — but he makes the most of his opportunities. Zira’s flashback works in no small part because it gives Kelly and colorist Eva de la Cruz a chance to cut loose a bit. The opening panel looking out over Soweto, South Africa instantly plunges you right into that neck of the world, complete with a softer and attractive color palette. As the demonic world creeps into Zira’s life, Kelly makes it increasingly horrifying. That continues into the present day, where Kelly’s two-page spread of the others at the meeting having flashbacks to their own moments in 1987 flows across the page in a way that makes you uneasy while offering only the briefest of glimpses into what happened to all of them.
“Survivors’ Club” #1 has a huge amount of potential, and I want Beukes, Halvorsen and Kelly to succeed here. While this first issue didn’t blow me away, it’s still above average. The next issue or two will make or break the series, but — for now — there’s enough promise present to make me come back for more.