"Bedtime Games #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Nick Keller
Illustrated by Conor Nolan
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by John J. Hill
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 27th, 2018
Three friends decide to go on an adventure before entering their senior year of high school. This takes them into a mysterious tunnel under their school. If this was real life, they'd probably just find used condoms and beer bottles, but this is a horror comic, so they unearth something terrifying and it's hungry.
Where Bedtime Games excels is in how thorough it establishes the three main characters, Avery, Jamie, and Owen. We're dropped into a normal day in their lives before everything changes forever. We get some glimpses into their past, each of these kids have already seen tragedy firsthand. These are powerful scenes that flesh out these characters, instantly giving you an understanding of who they are and why they're doing what they're doing.
The pacing works in this favor too. At first, I was worried we were going to spend so much time getting to know these three that we wouldn't have space for the horror elements. Boy, was I wrong. Writer Nick Keller seeds these aspects early and ominously. These little tidbits are enough to shock you and pull you in. You have to find out more, but that means watching Avery, Jamie, and Owen descend deeper into the tunnels to uncover something evil and after getting to know them, I don't want them to get hurt.
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Some of the scariest moments in Bedtime Games come from real life experiences the teenagers have already gone through. These flashbacks can be startling, especially with how violent and heartbreaking they can be. Each have suffered some form of loss or trauma and yet they're still holding their heads high.
Although Bedtime Games is set in the present day, it has a timeless quality. It looks like it could be happening any time in the past forty or so years. The kids aren't using cellphones or watching TV, so technology doesn't date the story. This could be any town in the country and these kids could be any three average teenagers.
This quality really comes through in Conor Nolan's artwork. Multnomah County feels homely and peaceful. Nothing bad could happen here, right? Hey, is that a dead body? Nolan seamlessly transitions from the normal to the frightening in such a way I'd imagine a jump scare working in comics. The beauty of this medium is that you can let that scare seep in as you pour over the artwork, taking in every gruesome detail.
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This is most definitely the case with the first aspect, as you are suddenly filled with questions as to what this is and how it got there. This creates a heightened sense of foreboding throughout the rest of the issue, like you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. It delivers in spades by the end with a jaw-dropping final page that will leave you begging for more.
Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick completes the package with a warm palette that welcomes you into this small town. Then you see the cool white of bones and everything changes. You look at each element with a more discerning eye as things just got real.
Avery, Owen, and Jamie don't check off boxes in a stereotypical horror story trope list. They're unique individuals with interesting qualities, making them more relatable, which in turn makes us more invested in their lives (and hopefully not deaths). This solid character development elevates the story and the scares contained within. Bedtime Games reminds me of a good Stephen King tale. Here are three kids who set out on an adventure and end up with something very different.