‘REGRESSION’ Comic Review
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Danny Luckert
Colorist: Marie Enger
Publisher: Image Comics
I’ve been reviewing Cullen Bunn’s horror comics since 2014, of which there are more than a few: The Remains, The Empty Man, Wolf Moon, Hellbreak and the long-form ongoing Harrow County. He’s an insanely prolific writer and most of his titles are worthwhile but honestly it’s a bit hard to keep up, especially with more and more creators dropping their own horror titles left and right. But Danny Luckert’s covers for REGRESSION, greatly enhanced by the work of colorist Marie Enger, have caught my eye with their body-horror, skin-crawling promise. So here we are.
REGRESSION is, like Bunn’s Wolf Moon, a relatively simple concept: what if hypnotherapy accidentally unlocked, for one innocent man, a whole host of unseen horrors? Except, in REGRESSION, those horrors have mandibles, thousands of tiny legs, and lurk just underneath your very skin. And as horrible as it is to see them, I imagine they like it even less. Think cockroaches when the light flicks on, except they’re buried in your chest and the light is being let in with a knife. Or is it? The main character suffers from hallucinations so, from the start, we have no idea what is or isn’t real. Well, except the dead body on the last page. I’m willing to bet my life that’s no figment of anyone’s imagination. Err, I mean, technically it’s a figment of Cullen Bunn, Danny Luckert and Marie Enger’s imagination but I regress. Err, digress, I mean.
I do have to say, though, that this first issue’s story has a few interesting possibilities I must speculate on. The pest removal specialist that visits the main character is, by my reckoning, Jack The Ripper. I’ll not say much more than that but if you did/do read this issue, please let me know what you think of my theory. Also, there’s something HIGHLY suspicious about the character of Molly. Nobody besides the main character ever interacts directly with her throughout the issue… I believe she is also a hallucination… The hynotherapist, Sid, at one point says “Based on everything you’ve told me” without referencing Molly at all, even though earlier in the issue it’s made clear that she’s the one who set up the therapy session. Either that or Bunn’s script is just very clean and efficient, which could also be possible.
But honestly? The writing isn’t what makes me want to re-read this issue over and over. It’s Danny Luckert and Marie Enger’s art. Luckert’s lines are crisp, detailed and enjoyable precise. His characters emote strongly with a detailed range. His POVs are enthrallingly dynamic without getting in the way of the story and his composition is flawless, with even a detailed two-pash splash holding a strong sense of solidity and readability. In fact, with only his linework, REGRESSION might have been *too* concrete, even when Luckert pulls back the veils of flesh for some choice cringe-inducing gore and nudity. That’s where Marie Enger comes in, her colors giving REGRESSION a warm, vital presence, adding a much needed earthiness and blood to Bunn and Luckert’s world. The latter part being the key, really; when things get icky in REGRESSION, Luckert and Enger pull no punches. This is body horror, for sure.
REGRESSION reminds me of films like Altered States or Shivers, but what the first issue promises is beyond the scope of cinema; by making the tale as much about the past as the present, it becomes far more potent. Is the knife-wielding man really a past-life of the protagonist, or is there something else going on here? How long have these bugs been hiding inside us? REGRESSION has the potential to be a genuine freak-out; what if the bugs have been gestating all this time? This book has me excited again, more than I’ve ever been about Bunn’s previous stories, and that’s because Luckert and Enger are the perfect team for fleshing out this skin-crawling nightmare, lulling the reader into a false sense of security and normalcy just to bombard you with a page full of nastiness. Here’s hoping they don’t let up!