Post Hype Machine: More is More in Hill House’s Full of Heads Verse

One of the stranger horror comics got even weirder with its latest…and maybe even more fun.

The comic industry has a short memory, as titles are hyped on approach to their first issue and often forgotten shortly thereafter. On to the next is the typical mindset, with what’s new leading the way for readers, comic sites and beyond. Post Hype Machine is a recurring column on SKTCHD built to move against that trend, as it will exclusively be looks at – that’s right, I’m not calling it a review, I’m calling it a “look at” – titles in their second arcs or later.

You might not actively think about it, but there’s almost certainly a moment when your liking of a comic turns into love. A specific beat that tells you, “Oh, this is for me.” Whether it’s a small scene or an iconic panel, 8 you can rarely predict what might build that connection. One thing is certain, though: you’ll remember that moment.

That was undoubtedly the case for Rio Youers, Tom Fowler, Bill Crabtree, and Andworld Design’s DC Black Label/Hill House series Refrigerator Full of Heads.

That growth from like to love came in the open to the third issue, as the still living head of a motorcycle gang member named Rooster rolls through a wooded glen, desperate to get back to the rest of his crew. As he struggles to make headway at this difficult task, the erstwhile biker comes across a glorious buck. Seeing this deer with antlers for days, an idea strikes this woebegone former macho man. The bodyless criminal begs the beast — pleading to the “divine ungulate,” this “quadruped of the gods” — for his help.

Nature delivered a solution, and with perfect comedic timing.

ut that beat in almost any other comic and it might seem over the top. Its absurdity could overwhelm the story. But in the Greater Full of Heads Verse 9 — which includes both Refrigerator Full of Heads and its predecessor Basketful of Heads from Joe Hill, Leomacs, Dave Stewart, and Deron Bennett — it just works, and does so with panache. “Less is more” is for squares, I imagine the creative teams of these titles might say. More is more is the only way they do things on Brody Island, the location for the bulk of this family of titles that launched the Hill House Comics imprint at DC Black Label.

The first in its line, Basketful of Heads, was a perfect comic. It wasn’t perfect for every reader or for every situation. But if you’re looking for a revenge story with fantasy elements and a winning, tough as nails lead in June Branch, then it’s truly elite. More than that, it provides the backbone of what’s to come. The larger thread of these Full of Heads titles orbits around a collection of Norse weaponry imbued with special powers. Its core item – a weapon named “The Axe of Yggdrasil,” which devastates anyone it comes in contact with, leaving them permanently alive even when you behead them – acting both as the murderous MacGuffin that connects the disparate elements of the story and as the primary differentiator between who lives or dies. Or, rather, lives as a whole person, as is often the case.

Basketful of Heads introduced all of it, delivering a killer story over a tight, seven issue run, one that fused 80s horror movie tropes while being rooted in the Stephen King Family Tree. 10 Its greatness is undeniable, even if the response to it was surprisingly muted considering its quality and pedigree. Because of that relatively quiet response, I didn’t expect more stories, even with an open-ended finale and a flexible concept. It just didn’t seem to generate enough interest, at least from the outside. That seemed especially true when DC’s fascination with imprints seemingly dried up as quickly as it entered this world, making Hill House feel like a one and done. And yet, Refrigerator Full of Heads was announced last July, with DC saying it was the “first in a new wave” of Hill House titles.

If Basketful of Heads was a focused, Stephen King-esque blend of genres, Refrigerator Full of Heads is its drunk, messy, gloriously insane follow-up, like a classic 80s horror comedy and its lower budget but higher energy sequel. Where the first story was deliciously fun and deliberately paced, its chaser downed a case of Jolt Cola through a beer bong and went to town. What it lacks in cleverness it makes up in pure gusto, with Youers ripping through fun, striking ideas at a near constant rate and Fowler and Crabtree bringing each to life with an explosive mix of grounded realism, bonkers realizations, and ingenious comic craft.

The glory of this title might have been best showcased in the endless chomping sound effects Fowler depicted whenever the immortal, chopped off head of a Great White Shark showed up, 11 with that insane burst of pure comic book glory almost operating as a single image representation of its entire vibe. It’s a shark head as a mission statement, demonstrating the consistent approach to Refrigerator Full of Heads. You read it and find a creative team taking zero plays off, with everyone electing to go for it at every turn over its six issues. That results in a potent, outrageous, and wondrously out there read, something unlike anything else on the stands in the very best of ways.

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