Silent Hill: Past Life is the perfect example of why good art alone doesn't make for a good comic book.
The art for this four-issue miniseries, by an artist known as "Menton3," is starkly beautiful - rendered in sketches and splashes, moody and evocative of the dark potential of Silent Hill. Whatever I say about the rest of the series, Menton3 is definitely the right artist to be working on it. Here's the man himself on the art for the series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt0JRhoPF58 - I may not agree with him about Tom Waltz's writing, but he clearly has a passion for the project.
I just wish he had a better story to work with. I hope he's given another chance.
The story of Past Life hearkens back to 1867, with Jebediah Foster (the "Hell Rider") and his wife Esther coming to Silent Hill to settle down after the end of the Civil War. Jebediah is clearly a troubled man (as if his name wasn't clue enough), haunted by memories of terrible things he's done in his past. His wife is pregnant and he just wants peace.
If you know Silent Hill at all, you already know he came to the wrong place. And this is where it starts to fall apart.
I love Silent Hill - the truth is that I've been a little obsessed with the mythology of the series ever since I played Silent Hill 2, years ago. Mysterious cults, twisted monsters, horrific visions and intimate, personal hauntings...and all of it engineered to make you question reality itself. Various interpretations of Silent Hill's weirder qualities include drug-induced hallucinations, mystical psychic manipulations, demonic possession and more.
In Past Life, instead of the strange and surreal aspects of the Silent Hill I love, we have a rogue's gallery lineup of traditional historical western fears - the mysterious black postman, the threat of a demon baby and a Native American woman apparently obsessed with bringing it to fruition. And here's my biggest issue with this series - compared to the weird and imaginative stories I'm used to seeing from Silent Hill, the story of Past Life seems mundane.
There's none of the truly weird here, none of Silent Hill's essential darkness and mystery. Jebediah's past is revealed gradually, but the expectation is set from the beginning that he's just not a good person. The other characters are quirky, but lack the touch of the strange that makes you question their every word, even their existence.
And let's not forget, Silent Hill is first a foremost a place, but it's a place with a character all its own. In the games and even the movie, the town itself manifests as a place of threat and malevolence. However, the Silent Hill of Past Life is a place without a sense of place, and without a character.
Which, above all, is why Past Life just doesn't feel like a Silent Hill story.
Silent Hill has a troubled history - and not just in terms of the problems of those who are drawn there. Its adaptations into different media have been hit and miss at best, and unfortunately Past Life misses on what makes Silent Hill great by a wide margin.