Going into this comic, I had no idea what to expect from the frontman of Slipknot and Stone Sour and an artist who doesn’t have a page on Comic Book Database. Gerard Way of recently broken up My Chemical Romance won an Eisner for Umbrella Academy, but Corey Taylor’s storytelling sputters in his comic book debut. The plot is by the numbers, and there are several lines of dialogue that even Hayden Christensen would refuse to utter. (“And then there was a ray of hope”, “It was gonna be a long journey”, “All that’s left to do is walk”) Conflict is introduced and then dialed back. Not even a good cliffhanger can salvage this story. Richard Clark and Dan Jackson’s solid work with landscape, colors, and some of the character models is wasted on Taylor’s subpar script.
However, the book started fairly strong. The main characters Human’s voiceover is poetic and a little melodramatic, but not as grating as later in the story. Clark’s panel work gives the beginning of the story a kinetic feel. I felt like I was in the middle of a music video or was listening to the first track of an album by an unfamiliar band. But after a boring chase scene, there’s an exposition dump and the story grinds to a halt after that.
The concept of Human having a “darker” twin side to his personality had potential, and Allen brought a dark sense of humor to the previously melodramatic proceedings. But he basically ended up playing a more manipulative version of the hero’s mentor. Instead of immediately coming to conflict with his “good half”, Allen taunted Human and told him to set off for the House of Gold and Bones. For no reason at all. There is no real motivation for Human to go on his quest other than to move the plot forward. Also, Taylor’s character work sometimes slipped, and I couldn’t tell the difference between Allen and Human.
As well as being a one dimensional character, Human is incredibly stupid. He spends the first half of the issue running around the fields chased by a black cloud that turns out to be his brother/father, or was it the bad guy, Black John? Towards the end, I giggled as Human stumbled down a cliff. There were lots of cliffs in this comic. Sometimes I felt like I was watching an ultraserious version of Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner.
Despite its major problems with plot, characterization, and dialogue, Richard Clark and Dan Jackson are a fine art team. Clark uses facial expressions to show the subtle differences between Human and Allen. However, sometimes he drew Human in a MAD-esque. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not. Jackson uses single colors, like red, green, and black to draw attention to Clark’s bleak landscapes. His greatest work was a completely gray panel when Human and Allen are talking together for the first time. Clark gets to draw distant cities, long canyons, and beautiful sunsets in this story, and he nails them all. The art was simple, yet beautiful, but the writing didn’t balance it out.
Even though he is blessed with beautiful landscapes and a bleak, mysterious world, Corey Taylor does relatively little world or character building in House of Gold and Bones. He also breaks a fundamental rule of storytelling by telling about the world that Human experiences instead of letting Clark’s work shine by showing. The villain he introduces is even less developed than Human and not terrifying in the slightest. Jason Shawn Alexander’s horrific cover is the best part of this issue which had little in scares, thrills, or character work.