Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward (IDW Publishing)

silenthill-header.jpgThe doom and forboding of the hit Konami survival horror video game series comes to life in this ominous graphic novel.



104 pgs. full color; $17.99 paperback

(W: Tom Waltz; A: Steph Stamp)


Jack "The Pup" Stanton is a hitman for a Boston mobster, but he’s not really a bad guy. He’d like to get out of the business, a desire made more urgent when he falls for the boss’s wife. She wants out too, so they decide to flee down the backroads and byways on a great American road trip which they hope will lead to a new and better life. The odds are against them from the beginning, but become significantly worse when pass a sign for the ominously titled "Silent Hill."

Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward draws heavily on film noir tradition. Stanton is a flawed hero trying to escape his past, while darker forces try to pull him back, and even the simplest decision has consequences far beyond what reason or justice should allow. Jill, his girlfriend, is the femme fatale enticing him off the straight and narrow, although paradoxically she does so by awakening his conscience and calling on the better aspects of his character.

Silent Hill begins near the end of the story, with Stanton balking at committing one more murder. It then proceeds through multiple levels of flashback, all the way back to Stanton’s childhood initiation into killing. While other kids were playing baseball, he was learning "the real American pastime" from his brutal father: killing. The first lesson was to watch his father blow away the neighbor’s cat; the second was for Stanton to kill his pet dog, after which his father declares with approval that he’s a "Born Fuckin’ Killer."

In the near present, Stanton and Jill stop for gas at a station near the ominous sign "Charon’s B.B.Q.". That’s the first clue that Stanton is traveling through a universe which is not quite the same as the one you and I live in. The second is the cryptic remark by the station attendant: "this place has a funny way of convincing folks to stick around." Not what you want to hear when your only thought is to get far, far away, but in true noir fashion, everything Stanton does to escape his fate has the opposite effect of bringing it closer.

The strongest aspect of Silent Hill is its sense of doom and foreboding: the first frame plunges you into a fog-bound, ominous world from which there is no escape. The main elements of the story have been used many times before, but Waltz combines them successfully into a crime and horror story with a significant metaphysical layer.  The influence of cinema is evident throughout, from the extensive use of voice-over to the many frames which mimic shots typical of film noir. Steph Stamb’s art is darkly beautiful, creating a very specific world which is both similar to and different from our own, while maintaining a vagueness as to time and place which makes the story universal.

Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward is suggested for mature readers. Sexual activity is implied and characters are seen in states of undress, but the real caution is due to the amount of violence portrayed. None of it is gratuitous, but the horror elements are presented in a manner so they appear truly horrific. | Sarah Boslaugh

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