Book: “Basketful of Heads” by Joe Hill and Leomacs (Ill.)
Publishing Info: DC Comics, September 2020
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: June Branch visits her boyfriend, Liam, on Brody Island for a relaxing last weekend of summer. After an escaped group of criminals breaks into the house that June and Liam are watching, Liam is taken by them. June grabs a strange Viking axe and flees from the intruders. When one of the attackers finds her, she swings the axe and takes off his head, which rolls away and begins to babble in terror. For June to uncover the truth, she’ll need to hear the facts straight from the mouths of her attackers, with…or without their bodies attached. Collects issues #1-7.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!
While it’s true that we aren’t getting a new Joe Hill novel this year, never fear fellow Hill lovers! He has made his triumphant return into the comics world with DC’s imprint Hill House Comics! Given how intricate and awesome “Locke and Key” is, when I heard that he was coming up with his own comic imprint I was very happy. When his premiere contribution “Basketful of Heads” became available in its full form on NetGalley I downloaded it almost immediately after I saw it. I had high hopes, and like most Hill content that comes my way, it met my expectations.
First thing is first, Hill has created some fun characters and a fun setting for this story. Brody Island feels exactly like the kind of beach town you would see in 1970s and 80s lore, with heavy nods to “Jaws” in particular (as this is one of Joe Hill’s favorite movies I wasn’t surprised; Brody Island named for the police chief in that movie, as well as a character saying someone should be hung up by their ‘buster browns’, a la the mayor). In this limited scope of a story you get a sense of the town and the people who live there, and the nostalgia factor was on point. Our protagonist June is the kind of lady character I’ve come to expect from Hill. She’s tough, she’s no nonsense, but she isn’t forced into a stereotypical ‘badass woman’ box we sometimes see when these kinds of characters are on the page. While it’s true that she’s lopping people’s heads off in hopes of saving herself and her boyfriend Liam, which is incredibly badass, she retains her personality and her core being. June also has some well done complexity, as she loves her boyfriend but has aspirations of her own through her education and focus on psychology. While others disparage her aspirations, she values them and holds true to them. I loved June. Add her to the list of excellent Hill heroines.
And then there’s the horror and mystery aspects of this story. As June takes off the heads of violent men who want to do her and Liam harm, we see a lot of gore and splatterpunk-esque violence that is very entertaining. We don’t really know what it is about the axe that June is carrying that makes people’s heads stay alive after being removed from the body, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The bigger question is why were June and Liam targeted by their attackers. And as that mystery slowly unfolds, we get a well plotted and full of twists ride that I really enjoyed. Hill has a number of tricks up his sleeves, and I found all of them entertaining as hell. I sped through this story wanting to know how it was all going to turn out, and with every reveal I was excited to learn more. Throw in some really fun Easter egg references to Stephen King and his work (prisoners from Shawshank on the run, the location of “Derry County”) and I could barely contain the smiles on my face that kept breaking out.
On top of all that, I liked the art style quite a bit. It is splatterpunk and gory when it needs to be, but also has some moments of cartoony camp and intimate expressions on our characters faces.
“Basketful of Heads” was a really fun story, and I couldn’t be happier now that Joe Hill is back to doing some work in comics. I will definitely be looking into his imprint more to see what other stories come out of it. Summer may be over, but if you want to cling to it a little while longer and you like this kinda thing, pick it up!
Rating 8: Super fun, super gory, super twisty, “Basketful of Heads” is a hoot and a half and a hell of a ride.
“Basketful of Heads” is new and isn’t included on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Best Horror Comics/ Graphic Novels”.