The story begins with five ordinary-looking people coming down from the mountains into a town. Called the Chimera (although I don’t recall them being named that in the narrative until near the end, just in a chapter title) they are God-like beings with powers that stem from the five human senses. The powers appear to be entirely destructive: the group has a cult-like hive mind, and leave mayhem and death in their wake. The series title refers to a mythical serpent-like creature capable of destroying other creatures with its stare, which is also the power of Regan, one of the Chimera who has left the group, riddled with guilt over what she has done.
Hannah lost her family in that first attack, and has been plotting her revenge ever since. Tracking down Regan and enlisting her aid takes her plan into high gear. The situation is further complicated by a preacher named Barret and a group of followers called the Faithful who follow him and believe in the godhood of the Chimera (as befits beings who look like gods, I suppose). Another huge slaughter occurs while the group is on its way to confront Hannah and Regan. At the climactic battle Regan reveals her battle suit, which blocks all direct sensory input, effectively rendering the Chimera powerless. It is still a close battle, but one of the Chimera does fall. That leaves three–whose powers are still growing–intent on teaching mankind a lesson.
This is a compelling beginning which leaves many large questions. Who are the Chimera, and where did they come from? How is Barret apparently immune to their powers? And what will the lesson be? Scharf employs an energetic, fairly representational visual style that moves the story along, while also allowing for a bit of visual symbolism (crows are a recurring motif). It reminds me of Rafael Albuquerque’s work on American Vampire.
There is a reason that Ethan Reckless is not on the cover of this one. He spends most of the story out of town on a case, which leaves his assistant Anna in charge. She intends to just keep the movie theater running, but is presented with an irresistible case. Hollywood Scream Queen Lorna Valentine is renovating a famous murder mansion she inherited, and wants help determining if the place is haunted. Anna met Lorna when she was young, and grew up watching her host horror movies on TV–and really, what could go wrong?
The mansion is plenty creepy, but Anna initially focuses on a simpler, more concrete objective, that of locating Lorna’s missing dog. Even that looks a little tricky, as she encounters suspicious neighbors and a cop who claims to live nearby, but acts increasingly suspicious. Anna’s estranged mother contacts her, invites her to her wedding, and introduces Anna to her sketchy fiancé. This triggers childhood memories, so we learn quite a bit more about Anna’s troubled childhood.
Research turns up a possible reason for outside interest in the mansion: legend has it that the Hollywood movie star who originally owned the place was paid in cash, so there may be a huge stash (possibly hidden in the walls). Unfortunately, Anna only puts that together after being stabbed by two homeless burglars she encounters in the house. But with that information she confronts the crooked cop. It bothers me a little that she needs Ethan’s help handling the guy–she had proven herself quite capable on her own–but Ethan is the star of the book, after all.