I wanted to start with a premise: Samuel Stern should not be rewarded because came out on newsstandsSamuel Stern should be rewarded for being a nice comic.
First serial publication from newsstands for the publisher BUGS Comics, written by Gianmarco Fumasoli and Massimiliano Filadoro and designed by Luigi Formisano, SAMUEL STERN: THE NEW NIGHTMARE presents itself as a solid and intriguing beginning.
These are dark times and shadows crawl in the dark ...
Set in the present day in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Barrach family is going through a bad crisis. They are inundated with debts and expenses, Margareth doesn't have a job, Robert has lost his and can't find a new one. He is angry and wounded in pride, he finds his wife to be a "suffocating pain in the ass" who does not understand his difficulties, so he vents his frustrations on alcohol. The Barrachs have a five-year-old daughter, Mary, who hugs her stuffed animal Mr. Puddles when the quarrels between mom and dad become more tense and violent. It is in this situation that Father Duncan involves Samuel Stern, an old college mate of the two spouses and now owner of an antique bookshop. They are all unaware that Barrach's negativity is absorbed by little Mary, giving rise to the demon who owns it.
Fortunately, Samuel and Father Duncan are able to exorcise this Evil.
Let's start by talking about the big elephant in the room: Samuel Stern is not a clone of Dylan Dog.
Although we talk about the same genre of Horror, the one that lurks in the everyday, Rosso separates himself from the Tenant of Craven Road telling himself in a more fresh and current way, with elements born from a narrative that takes a lot from current TV series and with a decidedly more "action" approach.
To a certain extent, the monsters are still us (or rather, they are within us) but now reference is made to a mythology which, even if just sketched, presents its rigidity, waiting for it to be taken up and deepened in the course of the next episodes.
The plot is simple and straightforward, but events and characters have fallen into a context that is told to the reader without "speaking": a few captions, unforced and natural dialogues as well as the "explanations", which are cleverly hidden in the scenes and get yourself out at the right times.
Simple and linear plot, however, does not mean poor at all, and in the 94 pages the numerous events and changes of scene manage to follow one another with the right rhythm and with a wide breath.
Even if it were not the # 1 in a series, THE NEW NIGHTMARE would be a perfect self-contained book.
Draw a new nightmare
Formisano excellently concretizes the trend of the entire issue: a concrete and coherent narrative with itself.
Not only in the plot, even in the space of the vignette do the environments gain their weight, they are the fundamental background, or why not, the stage, on which to make the characters act.
Because it is also in the acting of the characters that the engine of the story is found.
The sometimes tense and desperate gestures sometimes tender between the spouses Barrach, the innocence of little Mary, the worries of Father Duncan or the goodness of Samuel, are all expressed and then perfectly implemented, without the need for a single line of dialogue.
What I wondered before the release of the book was how supernatural atmospheres and the representation of demons would be rendered. It is easy to fall into the banal or the didactic to "explain" to the reader what is happening when you represent monsters or dreamlike scenes, but here you do an excellent job of "show, don't tell", where the drawings manage to perfectly show the meaning of unease, surreal and "action" depending on the scene in which we find ourselves (in this sense, the parts in which the demon emerges from Mary's conscience or in which Mary always finds herself "consumed" when Samuel explores are perfectly representative his memories to find the Crack).
The only real displeasure was seeing some sequences, especially those related to exorcism, "compressed" inside the traditional cage (two vignettes for three lines), I would have preferred more unrelated tables or splash pages more epic, but perhaps it would have been a problem, given the format in which SAMUEL STERN is published or maybe, who knows, I will be satisfied in the future.
Pulling some sum ...
I conclude with an observation that may seem trivial but not obvious: what I talked about is the first number of a series and, as an opening number, it is clear that it must be the best start that one can read for feeling enticed to continue the series the following month.
This is simply to say that it is still (obviously) too early to judge project SAMUEL STERN and know where it will take us.
However, as I wrote above, THE NEW NIGHTMARE has the advantage of standing up on its own, making a complete portrait of the characters and telling a valid story that works both alone and as a piece of a larger mosaic.
I am happy to start this new adventure, and I can't wait to know which dark paths SAMUEL STERN will lead us to.