With Hill House Comics’ Refrigerator Full of Heads, we’re back in Brody Island, Maine, that seemingly idyllic island cut off from the rest of the state by a long bridge.
It’s late summer in 1984, one year after the events of Basketful of Heads. If you need a refresher, that’s the Joe Hill-penned graphic novel that launched his Hill House Comics imprint and introduced us to final-girl June, who encounters an enchanted, antique axe that leaves its victims alive even when decapitated. It’s a great weapon in a pinch when a bunch of creeps are after you, but as June learns, not so great when defeating them means they can still blabber at you.
This time our heroes are Cal and Arlene Marshall, a couple getting away from city life for a while, something that always goes well for couples in horror fare. For Arlene, the vacation is supposed to be the scenic getaway she needs to finish her new novel. For Cal, well, he’s just there to provide support to Arlene.
While June’s adventures have left the town with a new lawman, things aren’t very peaceful on Brody Island. There’s apparently a giant great white shark in the waters surrounding the quaint island. The mayor wanted it cleared up by the Fourth of July—very Jaws of him—but no dice. And if you want to stay out of trouble, you’ll definitely avoid the local dive bar.
The owner of the Marshalls’ rental home makes this clear, giving them tips on fishing and eating fried clams while staying away from both sharks and bikers.
Of course, Cal immediately screws this up, running headlong into both pretty much immediately. It’s not long before Cal and Arlene come upon June’s axe at the bottom of the ocean and a whole heap of trouble. If Arlene wanted peace and quiet, she’s come to the wrong place. Or maybe she should have left Cal on the mainland.
There’s also a subplot that suggests the axe isn’t the only enchanted weapon out there and it may have already fallen into the wrong hands. Will those wrong hands come looking for the axe, too?
Joe Hill’s got a lot of work coming out lately. Season two of Netflix’s Locke & Key, based on his acclaimed comic series of the same name, drops this month. Critics and festivalgoers have also been talking about The Black Phone, next year’s movie based on Hill’s short story of the same name that’s helmed by Scott Derrickson, the director behind Doctor Strange and Sinister.
I can’t speak for the film, but the story “The Black Phone” is sinister and bleak, largely taking place in a dark basement. It’s about a kidnapper—played in the film adaptation by Ethan Hawke—who nabs a young boy off the street. The boy has little at his disposal…but there is a mysterious black telephone.
As much as I enjoyed “The Black Phone” and Locke & Key, the “Full of Heads Universe” (my name for it) sets a much different tone. It’s gory, it’s dark—it’s full-throttle horror.
Basket was campy fun, and Refrigerator ups the ante. That only makes sense, as you can definitely fit more heads in a fridge than a basket.
The first issue, written by Rio Youers and drawn by Tom Fowler, is already pretty out there, especially the final pages—it’s not unlike a certain James Wan film that came out recently or perhaps an episode of Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt. It wastes no time ramping up to full speed and setting up a series of bizarre mysteries and challenges. One would only expect the breakneck pace to continue in the remaining issues.
It’s not clear if we’ll see June again, who likely has no interest in revisiting Brody Island, but I suspect we’ll meet the new sheriff in town and that we haven’t seen the last of the biker gang.
I also wonder if Cal—who seems laid back in his Frankie Goes to Hollywood tee, but keen to get into trouble—has more business on the island than just catering to Arlene as she writes. He claims to be a motorcycle enthusiast, but why do we see him copying down the license plates of the bikes parked in front of the bar?
Only time will tell, but it may be running out for our heroes as several forces, both paranormal and not, converge. And damn, is Arlene ever going to get time to write her book?
Refrigerator Full of Heads #1 by Rio Youers, Tom Fowler and Bill Crabtree is now available in print and as a digital comic book. Need to get caught up? Basketful of Heads is available as a graphic novel or can be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE!
Juliet Bennett Rylah writes about horror comics and the dark side of superheroes for DCComics.com. Check out more of her writing on The Hustle, WeLikeLA and No Proscenium, and be sure to follow her on Twitter at @JBRylah.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Juliet Bennett Rylah and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.