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When five kids close to leaving high school decide on one last adventure together — and, in the process, discover a human brain in a jar full of murky liquid — it’s the start of a story that includes a building called the Nightmare House and a killer out to build a new body for themselves… piece by piece. Welcome to AfterShock Comics’ latest project, Piecemeal.
Written by Cullen Bunn (Uncanny X-Men, The Sixth Gun), with art by Szymon Kudranski (The Punisher, Spawn), Piecemeal isn’t just a concentrated burst of body horror aimed at fans of Stephen King (Bunn cites It and Pet Cemetery as influences on the book); it’s also the first in a line of short graphic novels from AfterShock intended to showcase the creative talent the publisher works with.
The graphic novella is “the story of five teens who are on the verge of starting their adult lives and going their separate ways,” said writer Bunn. “As they visit a local haunted site, they make a startling discovery — a human brain floating in a jar full of disgusting liquid.”
When Jamie, one of the teens, takes the brain home with him, things get even stranger. “Not only does Jamie’s ailing grandfather seem to ‘recognize’ the brain, but Jamie starts experiencing ghastly, prophetic dreams, and some otherworldly force begins to prey upon the kids,” Bunn teases.
Piecemeal “is an exciting project for me, because it’s such a different format. This is a focused tale of terror,” Bunn said of the 48-page one-off release. “It has a very specific goal — to scare the reader! And I’ve used this new format as an opportunity to do some different things with the storytelling. There are some elements of this tale that I think will open up the possibility of a lot of discussion among readers.”
Like much of the best horror stories, Piecemeal has its roots in the author’s own life experiences, as it turns out — if not entirely directly. “Did I find a brain in a jar in an old house? No,” he admitted, “but there are elements of truth to the tale. For example, my friend Doug and I did find a bunch of weird bones, all carved into strange shapes, in an old, crumbling house in the woods. That was obviously the inspiration for the inciting events of this story. But I also drew on the things that worried me and scared me when I was a teen. And Jamie’s grandfather is absolutely a representation of my own father, who struggled with dementia in his later years.”
Piecemeal is the sixth project Bunn has published through AfterShock. He said that he enjoys the risks the company takes on the types of material it releases. “One of the first books I did with them, Dark Ark, is a series that I thought might be too weird for a publisher, but AfterShock jumped on it and we’ve done 21 issues in that world so far,” he explained. “Piecemeal, being such a different format from traditional limited series or graphic novels, is just another example of how AfterShock will try unusual and interesting approaches to getting stories to readers.”
The book, which Bunn described as “a perfect tale for horror lovers,” will be released Dec. 9 in comic book stores and digitally.
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