Silent Hill: Paint It Black (2005)
By: Trist Jones on September 15, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Publisher: IDW
Writers: Scott Ciencin
Art: Shaun Thomas
I know, I know. Up until now, the Silent Hill comics, while (for the most part) visually fantastic, are a little hard to swallow – at least in terms of story. But note what I just said; "up until now". That's right, in spite of a few very brief moments towards the end of the book, Silent Hill: Paint It Black, is about as straightforward as it comes. Don't read that as a bad thing though, because Paint It Black is both an excellent addition to the Silent Hill mythos, and a great horror story.

Centring around Ike, a painter and complete waster, Paint It Black puts a disturbing new spin on the sinister agendas of Silent Hill, as well as telling yet another well rounded story with a moralistic grounding. The morality isn't exactly slapped in your face or bandied about like Aesop's Fables or Masters of the Universe, so don't be frightened of that, it simply provides a driving force for the story in a manner similar to the emotional thrusting the previous books had. You see, as good a painter as Ike is, he's a leech. He saps money and hospitality from those around him, overstaying his welcome and never returning the favour, and when the book starts, Ike has finally pushed his luck too far and is out of places to turn, until he comes across a disturbed young man in a subway who tells him about Silent Hill – but also tells him never to go there. With the incentive for food and a home, Ike dismisses the warning and heads off immediately.

Sounds pretty standard fare so far, but this is where things start to get interesting and significantly different to what came before it. I'm going to assume that anyone visiting this website is aware of what a snuff film is. When Ike arrives in Silent Hill, he isn't subjected to the same horrors most others seem to fall prey to, rather, he is allowed to live and walk amongst the monsters as though he were one of them. They like him. In fact, they like him so much, they want him to paint for them. It all starts off well enough, a few still-lifes, a few portraits, some scenic and interpretive works, but then things take a disturbing turn. Ike witnesses some visitors get chased down and torn to pieces, and the monsters responsible make him paint the slaughter. Snuff paintings.

After months of living in Silent Hill, painting his paintings, Ike comes across newspapers and magazines in one of the town's stores. His artwork is all over them, the outside world is raving about his artwork, he's the next big thing, so he decides to pack up and leave and claim what he's clearly owed. All well and good, but the town won't let him leave, and when a busload of state champion cheerleaders breaks down in the middle of town, the peace is shattered and Karma comes back to bite Ike square on the arse.

The story is far less ambiguous than it's predecessors, which some may welcome as a breath of fresh air. It certainly makes for a much more digestible and easier read, but thankfully, Ciencin manages to retain the feeling that this is a Silent Hill story and that it hasn't been dumbed down in anyway. It's a drastically different story to Among the Damned and Dying Inside, especially when the cheersquad arrives, but there is more horror present in this book than either of the aforementioned titles.

I really enjoyed Shaun Thomas's artwork in Among the Damned and his art here is, once again, exceptional. The tone of his art in this book is far more sinister though, evoking a visual atmosphere more akin to that found in the third Silent Hill game. Again, the Giger influences shine through, particularly during a sequence where twin cheerleaders Missy and Chrissy are to be dissected before a 'class' of creatures. Other creatures have been torn straight from the games, and Thomas renders them wonderfully, and the arrival of the Red Pyramid (also known as Pyramid Head) is a nice – albeit brief – nod to a prominent fan favourite.

In reviews of the past books, I was unsure whether or not the jarring nature of the comics came down to the art or writing, mainly when dealing with shifts in time or space. I realise through reading this instalment that it may actually come down to a combination of the two, as even though Ciencin tells us (in this story at least) how much time has passed over the course of the story through dialogue, Thomas's artwork, while excellent, doesn't vary enough in it's colour or aesthetics to allow the reader to notice the jump in time or location until it's mentioned in the dialogue. I've also mentioned how well Ciencin handles dialogue in the other books, and here he excels with Ike's hip-hop colloquialism, which is actually readable, unlike a number of other comics that use hip-hop dialogue that is written out so phonetically it becomes virtually unreadable.

There's nowhere near as much subtext hiding beneath the surface of this story, and it's a much more downbeat (and slightly offbeat) story than the first two, but it's far more likely to find acceptance amongst both Silent Hill fans and casual horror fans alike. The horror plays out in much the same way it did in the previous books, relying heavily on the visuals and purely nightmarish nature of it all, but the added idea of the snuff paintings and the hidden machinations of the town build on these foundations, providing a new, and very solid layer to the Silent Hill mythology. The Alice in Wonderland nature of the paintings and Silent Hill 4 inspired dimensional portals are a nice touch too.

In the end, if you're a horror fan who's been slightly let down by the nature of the horror books available at the moment, this is a great buy. It doesn't require much, if any, real knowledge of the Silent Hill games, or of the previous books, and contains enough visceral and cerebral horror to make even the fussiest horror fan happy, and for the fans of the series so far, it's a great little one shot book that stands well on it's own, and adds to everything that came before it without doing so pretentiously. Great story, and great art makes another great buy.
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