Best Shots Review: BLOSSOMS 666 #1

Blossoms 666 #1
Credit: Laura Braga/Matt Herms/Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)
Credit: Laura Braga/Matt Herms/Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)

Blossoms 666 #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Laura Braga and Matt Herms
Lettering by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Laura Braga/Matt Herms/Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)

There’s always been something unusual about the way that CW’s Riverdale portrays any plot thread involving the Blossom’s. While the rest of the show is characterized almost entirely by its chameleon aesthetic, Blossom plots are uniquely gothic. There’s repressed sexuality, incestuous overtones, generation-spanning consequences, and it sometimes feels like each time the show visits Blossom Mansion we could find Bronte’s madwoman in the attic. It should come as no surprise that Blossoms 666 #1’s writer Cullen Bunn, artist Laura Braga, and colorist Matt Herms excel at both imbuing the more gothic scenes and locale with a thick atmosphere of dread and at making the juxtaposition between the world of the Blossom’s and the rest of Riverdale’s youths pronounced without being overly jarring. While the central hook of the story, that Jason and Cheryl are competing for the throne of hell, is prominent in press material and thus spoiling a little of the intrigue the opening issue builds, the comic still hints at a grandness to this Cruel Intentions meets The Devil’s Advocate that gives readers more to wonder.

Credit: Laura Braga/Matt Herms/Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)

The debut issue is neatly divided into two sections. First, readers watch the Blossoms as they go through their day at Riverdale High while hyping their pool party. While this is the weaker portion of the comic, both visually and narratively, it fulfills a need in introducing the surprisingly large number of characters being pulled into the story, it still pulls readers in with Cheryl and Jason’s nefarious machinations on Dilton and Jughead respectively. Having even a passing knowledge of Satan-worship plots will likely give readers the notion that the Blossom’s victims will likely be sacrificed. Bunn, a writer with a flair for gothic tales and subverting expectations, twists that significantly in the comic’s closing moments. Despite how slow the opening is, it still highlights juxtapositions between appearances and inner character. This is obviously present in the conceit of the Blossom’s being hellspawn, but it’s also there in Miss Grundy’s interest in Jason Blossom.

Things change once the comic settles into the mansion, and suddenly the atmosphere is dripping with an uneasy energy that carries through most of Blossoms 666 #1’s panels. In a single page, readers get cherub statues and mounted boar heads. Jason and Cheryl walk down to their basement to greet a group of hooded individuals offering blood upon a pentagram. The two talk about snacks and refreshments amid an otherwise grotesque scene, again reinforcing the banal and the upsetting, and making a literal and visual representation of the theme of appearances and dark reality. This is further developed when two of the hooded figures are revealed to be Mr. and Mrs. Blossom, who dote on their children in some aw-shucks framing while talking about how one of them will usher darkness into the world.

Credit: Laura Braga/Matt Herms/Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)

After two pages of pool-based hijinks, the Blossom’s transition the core cast into a game of truth or dare, and it’s here that Bunn’s story and escalating dialogue, Braga’s facial art, and Herm’s sleek and moody colors elevate the comic. It all starts off as innocuous, “What do you think is sexiest about a guy?” and “Who are you most attracted to?” are pretty standard truth or dare fare. But stranger questions get mixed in, like “What would you like to be reincarnated as?” and “Have you ever thought of killing someone?” These add to the horror atmosphere in their own right, but also serve an additional thematic purpose when the twist on the virgin sacrifice trope is revealed in the comic’s closing moments. Cheryl doesn’t want to offer Dilton as a sacrifice. She wants Dilton to sacrifice his bully Reggie, who has been tied to a tree on yet another pentagram-adorned ground.

Once you get through the necessary exposition, you’ll find an issue that offers a lot in terms of thematic consistency and entertaining storytelling. Bunn is in his element here, and is clearly channelling what has made him such a strong writer in prior horror series. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with this particular comic sandbox. Braga’s art and Herms’ colors make each panel feel lived-in and carefully constructed, particularly in the comic’s back half. The book is heavily indebted to the two when it comes to the very obvious tone that it carries. Blossoms 666 #1 is a great issue in its own right, but with the artistic depictions and theme-heavy plot, the devil is in the details.

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