08th Jun2017

‘Little Nightmares #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by John Shackelford | Art by Aaron Alexovich | Published by Titan Comics


Cross pollination is all the rage at the moment. Games into films into books into TV shows into comics, rinse and repeat. This obviously has good and bad consequences. On the good side, if we like something a lot it’s nice to get a lot more material in a variety of mediums (look at Star Wars for the king of that model). On the bad side, something good can become far too diluted, or the quality of the additional tie-ins are just not good enough. Sometimes though, an adapted property does make you scratch your head a little.

Little Nightmares is an interesting property to develop into a comic series, and certainly not one I would have put even half way up a list of good games to adapt. Little Nightmares, for the uninitiated, is a recently released horror adventure game that ‘stars’ a little girl called Six. Six is trapped in a place called The Maw, full of strange and dangerous creatures, and the game is her attempt to escape this nasty place. John Shackleford is the writer here, he also wrote or co-wrote the game I believe, though comics veterans Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters have plot credit too. The art is by Aaron Alexovich, who’s main background is in animation art and design.

The story, such as it is, is incredibly atmospheric but incredibly short on content. Not entirely sure how 3 people were credited as plotters, and one as a scripter, as I could have written this on the back of a fag packet. But I digress. While Six is busy escaping from some of the aforementioned nasty creatures, she comes across a group of strange children huddled around a fire. They urge her to tell them who she is and how she got there, or she will forget. This is also a handy way of course to get a little background and plot recap, though it is done rather clumsily. The children in turn tell a story,  The Tale of the North Wind, when children from their village had to flee as the North Wind destroyed their village. It pursued them until they had nowhere to go, and a tough choice had to be made. The children are them, of course.

Well, this issue is a bit of a head scratcher, if truth be told. Oodles of atmosphere, generated mainly by the artwork, but the story simultaneously tries to capture the spirit of the game while being completely unlike it. While it retains the same air of mystery the game has, and hints at some of the creatures lurking about, it lacks the focus of the game. In the game Six is trapped, we try to help her escape. Here, Six was barely a presence beyond discovering the children around the fire. Her thought monologue added nothing to the story, beyond being mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. The story doesn’t flow either, from page to page, as it should. It is disjointed, feeling as though pages were individually written and stitched together, rather than a story organically flowing.

The high point of this first issue is undoubtedly the artwork. Aaron Alexovich has experience in both animation storyboard design and concept art and comic books and it shows. The look and feel of the game and its characters is captured incredibly well, especially the yellow raincoat wearing Six, a motif stolen brazenly from Japanese/ Korean horror films and perhaps Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Very effective though. Alexovich’s art is the only thing giving this first issue any sense of coherence, of continuity, and he manages to combine a cartoony playfulness in his art with a sense of the macabre, of nastiness. Fine work.

A game of two halves. Weak script, strong art. Let’s hope it’s first issue teething troubles and the book can push on from here.

I’d like to see what is essentially an indie book do well in the mainstream.

*** 3/5


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