Bone Parish, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn (Author), Alex Guimaraes and Jonas Scharf (Illustrators)
BOOM! Studios (May 2019)
112 pages, $10.83 paperback; $9.13 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Bone Parish is described as a “chilling necromantic horror story.” The Ash is a new, popular drug sweeping the underground scene of New Orleans. As with any new drug, rival gangs and interests are fighting over the supply, while few know the true secret of its origin — it’s made from the ashes of dead bodies. The visions The Ash produces are spectacular and unique, literally allowing the user to experience someone else’s life, until they overdose and die from the high. Writer Cullen Bunn is able to combine the traditional Gothic milieu of New Orleans with a horror story of necromancy and a typical drug dealer anti-hero story into one really interesting experience for the reader.
Obviously, what makes Bone Parish stand out as unique is the drug itself. The Ash is a really bizarre take on what’s a fairly typical drug story. While many of the characters use The Ash simply to get high and experience someone else’s life, others use specific samples from specific people for moral support or counseling. This is an interesting take on the subject of addiction, and really explores themes of how people can become addicted to other people and how their deaths can affect us. This was probably Bunn’s most creative take on the story, and one which will hopefully work well over the rest of the series.
Beyond that, Bone Parish is a fairly standard drug tale. The rival factions — a black family from New Orleans, a Mexican cartel, and a New York syndicate — are very stereotypical, and while there’s a unique dynamic within the focus family, it’s all very standard stuff — a widowed mother who is the business end of the operation, a daughter who is the lone manufacturer of the drug, and brothers who do the dirty work. There’s very little new or unique about the characters or the set-up, and while the scenes are intense and action-packed, they’re not too original.
Overall, Bone Parish is a standard drug gang story with a horrific element. The idea of a drug made from the ashes of the dead is clever and used well, but the events surrounding the turf wars and claims for supremacy and supply control are fairly cliché. And while Alex Guimaraes and Jonas Scharf create compelling artwork for the graphic novel, there’s not enough here to keep a horror reader interested or engaged.