Bad pacing and an unengaging introduction make Bad Reception #1 a lackluster start for AfterShock’s new horror title.
Bad Reception is a play on words that sums up quite a lot of the first issue of this new horror title from AfterShock. All the creative chores are by AfterShock veteran Juan Doe, who slowly drops us into the pivotal premise of this series.
It’s the celebrity wedding of the year, at the remotest location they can find, and the hook is the whole event will be off the grid. No social media, no press, no Instagram or Twitter for this event. Can you imagine?
Well neither can our assembled cast, who all have various views on ditching their phones and spending real time with each other at the wedding. However, there is a lurking presence on the outskirts of the venue, slowly stalking and hunting his way towards the unassuming ensemble.
Bad Reception has an idea, the idea of locking a group of people away from the outside world and letting a murderous madman pick them off. Admittedly it is not the most original premise you have ever seen, but the USP here is that the very people who rely most on social media, for their careers, and their social life, have to give it all up, just when they will probably need it the most.
Everyone loves a base-under-siege story, and I imagine that future issues will show us the struggle for survival that the wedding party is about to go through. However, as I made my way into the heart of the story, I have to admit I felt there was a problem. The pacing of the book seems off, and I think the writer/artist may be pacing for the wrong genre.
The first 10 pages of Bad Reception #1 are essentially a conversation between the author of a new book all about getting off social media, who is also the groom for the wedding, and the host of a show called Tech Talk. We see dialogue only in these pages, that are all black background with red splatter marks, that intensify on each consecutive page until we get a final reveal. There is a lot of text, and a lot of exposition, and to be honest, I got bored reading it. Ten pages of a comic book, a medium that provides words and pictures to convey a story, that pretty much uses only words. Now I know that there is an eventual reveal, but I feel this whole sequence could have done the job in two pages, with actual panels, and maybe a full-page reveal. It just didn’t grab me, and in the first issue of a series, I expect to be surprised and intrigued by a premise, but this felt like listening to a boring podcast and did nothing to excite me.
When we finally get to see characters talk to each other, the whole comic feels a little flat. Much of the dialogue between the cast covers ground already mentioned in the opening pages. We get it, social media bad, wedding in a cabin in the woods imminent, hopefully lots of gore and murder on the horizon, but it is a slow climb up a hill to get to anywhere near where we as readers really want to be.
Now I know this could just be a real slow burn before things get nuts, but this is the first issue of a comic that you hope will encourage people to return the following month for more, and sadly Bad Reception #1 falls at the first hurdle.
This may have worked better as a TV show or first act of a movie, but not enough happens to grab us and hook us in for what’s still to come. Perhaps Juan is hoping for an option, but you cannot write comics in the hope you are going to get a pass to Netflix. You are doing the reader, and purchaser of the book, a disservice.
Bad Reception #1 should have been edited with more care, to sharpen everything up and get things moving at a much quicker pace. A shame, as Bad Reception has a creepy idea, and like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, it taps into a social norm that we can all relate to. Sadly it gets the pacing wrong, and as a result, I finished the book with apathy.