Anyone looking for some light, bedtime reading should probably look elsewhere. Anyone troubled by intense violence, serious psychological horror, or the occasional curse word should probably look elsewhere too. The List delivers us into a dark, dark world. It’s brutal, it’s uncompromising and it’s really unpleasant to read. The List is everything a fine work of horror should be.
From the opening pages of the first volume, even before the story begins, it’s clear that we’re in a bleak place. The starkness of the black and white visuals brings a chiaroscuro intensity to the work, which is nicely offset by the sepia and white flashback scenes. The art is quite minimal, often focussing on some minuscule detail of events. It conveys a sense of isolation, while also drawing an intense focus on these forceful characters and the particulars of their horrific tale.
The strength of The List as a story revolves on its gradual revelation, so I don’t want to do it disservice by overly describing the plot here. Basically though, we have a man whose father bequeaths to him a list of commandments that he must spread in order to attain enlightenment. This list and its often sickening consequences are revealed as the narrative progresses. It’s violent, it’s mysterious, and it’s littered with would-be rapists, paedophiles, rotting corpses and a whole lot of blood and death.
The teasing, painfully gradual manner in which Bedford in collaboration with the artists, reveal the various aspects of The List and its horror is nothing short of masterful. It’s long been said that good horror, effective horror, truly terrifying horror comes from within the reader’s (or viewer’s) imagination more effectively that it can come from anything on the page (or screen). The List takes full advantage of this keeping us continually guessing. From the outset, I wasn’t sure I should be suspending my disbelief. Is this guy really on a Divine mission? Or is he just a messed up sociopath? And I alternated between the two positions until the end.
That uncertainty, the mistrust is also at the core of The List being a brilliantly constructed piece of horror as while I was trying to figure out what was really happening I was pulled further into this gruesome world, more deeply into this guy’s mind and his grisly experiences. Of course, I’m not going to disclose the truth here.
The List plays with some serious and far reaching themes. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’s safe to say that The List is an exploration of justification. How we justify to ourselves and the world what we do, how we get everything to make sense to us, even if it’s all a complete mess to an outside observer. Of course, The List represents an extreme version of this, taken to its darkest depths. At the close of Volume III, the creators write a bit about what the work means to them. I’ll let Bedford speak for himself:
“Allegorically, The List serves as a statement on any unseen forces that seek to condition us; inhibit us; control us. Though the obvious one, I am not referring specifically to religion here. Moreover, it is an observation of beliefs, paradigms and attitudes we so desperately cling to without pause for serious contemplation of their influence. Maybe we feel that, bereft of them, our lives, indeed, our identities, would lose form… without considering such a thing may just be a blessing in and of itself.”
I have to add that I can only recommend The List for mature readers, and even then, only those with a strong stomachs and perhaps even stronger minds.
The List Credits
Written by Paul Bedford
Pencils by Henry Pop
Inks by Tom Bonin
Cover Art by Wayne Nichols
Layout/Lettering by Fleur Andrews
1st Edition Printing April 2011
Produced and Published by Dog With A Bone Studios