"Headless": Fun story, though lacking depth and originality
Headless (2019) Written by Alexander Banchitta, Art by Robert Ahmed.
I initially took interest in this book because the Headless Horseman tale was one of my favorites as a child, and I was intrigued to see a new take on an old story, as I'm usually a sucker for those. To be fair, the way that the story is reinvented for this comic is actually quite interesting, though sadly it doesn't feel much different from the films, shows, and comics that it is drawing inspiration from.
Rick Winter is the rookie in town, having recently joined the local police force. His first assignment is rather dramatic for a start, a brutal double murder that's linked to an old folktale of the town. Things are already going wrong but everything goes sideways once centuries-old cults, demons, and vengeful spirits get involved.
The comic clearly takes influence from the so called 'kids on bike' sub-genre of speculative fiction, though its tone seems to be confused in what it's going for, rather it's a small town supernatural mystery or a teen supernatural romp. One could point out how things like Stranger Things or Paper Girls— which deal with similar themes and aesthetics as Headless— are similar in their fast pace, but they allow the time for their characters to grow and change throughout the chaos, though admittedly, Vaughan also has issues with his pacing. Though that is another topic...
The pacing, as what befalls many modern comics, also suffers. While the plot keeps moving and is relatively fast paced, there's never much time where it slows down or allows the characters to express themselves or to change or grow in any meaningful way. I've discussed in the past on how pacing can make or kill a story. As comic writers like Ed Brubaker have demonstrated, pacing must have a balance between fast paced action and slow, thoughtful character interaction. Headless is not the first comic to fall victim to sacrificing character for story, but it is a textbook example about how comics can easily become lost in its pacing, which brings out a rather confused and disjointed experience.
Despite my criticisms, I had fun with it. I wasn't expecting a groundbreaking story, though I rarely do. I only seek good storytelling, and while the storytelling is clear in its goals and attempts and doesn't aim to be deep, it completely forgets to give us compelling characters, as well as when to slow down or when to speed up.
If you want to go find and read Headless for yourself, the best bet would be from Scout Comics. Or, order it from your Local Comic Shop.