Best Shots Advance Review: COLD SPOTS #1

Image Comics August 2018 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Image Comics

Cold Spots #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Mark Torres
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

They say never judge a book by its cover, but I’d argue that the cover for Cold Spots #1 is perfectly emblematic of the story inside — with two sets of eyes lingering in a formation of clouds, it’s certainly a haunting image, but it’s also an image that has nothing to say. Unfortunately, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Mark Torres’ debut issue doesn’t make a particularly compelling case for new readers, giving us only the barest flicker of horror atop a foundation of recycled detective tropes.

It’s a shame, because when you look at cold as a temperature, it can go one of two ways — either a feeling that chills you to the bone, or an environment that just leaves you numb. As Bunn introduces his frost-inducing specters, the feeling is firmly in the latter camp — while he draws his environments with encroaching shadows, Torres’ hazy ghost designs don’t particularly fill us with dread, which is doubled down by Bunn’s decompressed introduction of side characters that we don’t particularly have any investment in.

But by the time we meet Bunn’s protagonist, an investigator named Kerr, it’s unclear if Cold Spots will be able to course-correct. Kerr feels like a stock character through and through, as he’s hired to find his missing ex-girlfriend and her daughter — Bunn gives Kerr the prerequisite P.I. attitude, but he leaves so much blank space that he never bothers to fill with any sort of characterization. Instead, we waste entire pages that could be filled with a single establishing shot, while Kerr’s actual detective work isn’t particularly memorable or hard-earned. I give Bunn credit for trying to mix genres, but neither the horror elements or the mystery pays off.

Some of that can be attributed to artist Mark Torres, as well. Torres has a style that reminds me a bit of Jae Lee and a bit of Kody Chamberlain’s Sweets — his use of color and shadow is Cold Spots’ most memorable feature, even if the claustrophobic mood feels a bit unearned with the actual story going on underneath. That said, Torres washing his scenes out with magentas and greens can also be an acquired taste, one that could make the argument of artwork seeming unfinished. Torres works hard, however, to fill in the spots that the script leaves frustratingly blank — the ongoing motif of Kerr being cold, for example, as Torres has him wring his hands, the fainted vapor trail coming from his mouth.

Given that Cold Spots is a five-issue miniseries, there’s a chance that this storyline might perk up in later installments, but given how sluggish this first issue feels, it feels like a fairly big ask even to wait for the trade. Cold Spots struggles from a lot of problems that plague independent comics these days, from an unmemorable high concept to paper-thin characters to pacing so decompressed it feels a bit like a bait-and-switch. Given Bunn’s prolific writing streak, it’s just the law of averages that not every story could be a winner, but this is a series that will likely leave readers cold — and not in a good way.

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