Regression #1, written by Cullen Bunn with art by Danny Luckert, opens with an unsettling scene of grisly horror and doesn’t let up. Bunn is of course well-known in comics for his acclaimed horror series “Harrow County,” and Regression tells a story the writer been’s carrying around inside him for years. And just like the protagonist of the story, Bunn’s story suggests that what lies inside the deepest and darkest parts of our minds may be more nightmarish and horrifying than we ever considered. And despite some minor flaws, Regression #1 succeeds in being the chilling and disturbing opening chapter to what could be another horrific success for Cullen Bunn.
The story follows Adrian, a man beset by deeply disturbing waking nightmares that are ruining his life. As these visions intrude more and more on his life and sanity, a desperate Adrian reaches out to a hypnotist who suggests past life regression hypnotherapy as a solution. But Adrian soon discovers that the technique may have instead opened a door in his mind, allowing something altogether more terrible and evil to come to the fore.
Bunn and artist Danny Luckert (“Haunted”) certainly are aware of what kind of story they’re telling, and there’s no skimping on the disturbing imagery, gore and generally unsettling atmosphere a book like this needs. But the story also immediately posits some interesting thematic questions, namely our intrinsic fear of self-examination. Any endeavour whose aim is to learn about ourselves, especially learn about the dark issues that plague us, begs the question of whether acknowledging and exploring our dark side will lead to it overwhelming us. Is Adrian beset by some outside force trying to drive him insane? Is this an invasion, supernatural or otherwise? Or is he just on a journey to become the person he truly is?
The imagery of the hallucinations/waking nightmares is definitely the high point of Regression #1, as are the scenes that focus on Adrian’s struggles to deal with what is happening to him. Where the issue stumbled slightly for me was in the dialogue scenes involving Adrian and his friend Molly as they discuss what’s going on with him and how to help. It’s tricky because obviously Bunn wants to get us to the hypnotherapy past life regression stuff as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t help but feel the dialogue was a tad clunky, a bit too on the nose. It’s not so much what the characters say, but how they say it, and it just felt a bit off to me, like they needed another pass to feel more organic. As I said, it’s not a huge flaw, but I couldn’t help noticing it.
Danny Luckert’s art is a great march for the story, managing to be horrific, grisly and gory but never seeming tacky. Luckert’s work reminds of Tony Harris, particularly his skill with facial expression, and I liked the way that his art and Marie Enger‘s colors never veered into shadowy murkiness or overt atmospherics. The story is about the terrifying intruding into Adrian’s waking world, so all for those elements are brightly lit and depicted with clarity and realism. The only artiness comes where it should, in the brief regression scene, and even that was restrained and subtle. It’s really nice work, especially considering the horrific and explicit subject matter.
All in all, though I mentioned some flaws in the dialogue, I enjoyed Regression #1 quite a bit. It was a creepy, unsettling story with an unusual hook handled in a way that reflects Bunn’s obvious connection to the story. With a sympathetic protagonist, strong imagery and a well-constructed narrative, horror fans will find plenty to like in this debut issue. 7.5/10