Comics, Reviews

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James Review: One Hellish Night

Explore The Many Deaths of Banarby James, a new and twisted horror graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics.

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James Cover
Image: Dark Horse Comics
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:25 AM

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James

Review
Rating
8
Good
The Many Deaths of Barnaby James Cover

Writer: Neil Gibson and Brian Nathanson

Artist: Piotr Kowalski

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Release Date: December 12, 2023

Page Count: 144

Format: Graphic-novel

With an excess of blood, gore, and sexually debaucherous behavior, The Many Deaths of Barnaby is not for the faint of heart. But underneath all the horror is a surprisingly hopeful story of a doe-eyed boy who would do anything for love.

How far would you go for someone you love? Would you dive head first into the darkest depths of Hell just for another chance to see them again? As morbid of an opener as that sounds, that idea lies at the heart of “The Many Deaths of Barnaby James.” Created by Brian Nathanson and then adapted for comics with Neil Gibson, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, and Saida Temofonte, this gruesome comic tells the tale of an innocent boy navigating through a dark and twisted world. It’s a horror story filled with sickening moments and demented characters that are tied together by a naive youngster who’s too hopeful for his own good. Are you in need of some juicy horror in time for the holidays? This comic may be exactly what you’re looking for!

But before I go into my review, I’d like to give a special thanks to writer Brian Nathanson for providing us with an early copy of the comic before it hit shelves. With that said, let’s get to my review!

Barnaby James

Overview

Barnaby James is a young gravedigger who works for the mysterious traveling circus known as the Black Top. He was resurrected by a shady man named Azlon who uses necromancy as the main attraction of his macabre shows. While Barnaby may not be the sharpest tool in the shed and is a little bit naive, he has a good heart and is passionate about the people he loves.

Barnaby dreams of having the love of his life, Delilah, resurrected just like him. But Azlon does not see eye-to-eye with the boy. So, one night, Barnaby decides to steal Azlon’s magic wand to make his dream come true. What unfolds for the lad is a wild journey through the night involving monsters, murderers, cannibals, sex slaves, and more. Can Barnaby bring his love back to life? Or is the strapping young boy throwing himself deeper into Hell on Earth?

Azlon waking the dead

Review

It has been a while since I’ve experienced a story quite as dark as this comic. So, be ready to hear me say words like “dark,” “twisted,” and “grotesque” a lot in this review because those best describe the insanity that goes on in the story. The first chapter alone packs plenty of moments of intense gore, sexual debauchery, and a sicking mix of both. Then things only get more messed up from there. I was amazed by how the story manages to continuously one-up itself in how dark it can get as I got deeper into the comic. But as shocking and grotesque as those moments are, they are all part of showing you how twisted and unrelenting the world of the comic can be. It makes the comic feel like you’re reading an intensely macabre episode of Tales from the Crypt. It’s short, sweet, and filled with cruel twists and turns along the way.

But The Many Deaths of Barnaby James is not just about hitting you with shock and awe. Continuing with the Tales of the Crypt comparison, this comic delivers a surprisingly human story underneath all the horror and blood. At the heart of it all is the titular protagonist, Barnaby James. He’s young and kind-hearted but also painfully naive, making him the perfect contrast against the godless monsters and murderers we meet throughout the comic. The story does not hold back on introducing some of the vilest beings imaginable. Even characters who may seem like a bright spot in the story secretly have some horrific skeletons in their closets. While it is tragic to think of such a kind soul like Barnaby living in a hellish world, there’s a feeling of hope from seeing a character as dewy-eyed as him navigate through all the darkness.

By this point, I’ve talked at length about how dark and twisted the world of Barnaby James is, and a lot of that is thanks to Piotr Kowalski’s incredible and horrifying art. As much as Gibson and Nathanson don’t hold back on telling such a twisted story, Kowalski is an artistic powerhouse with a knack for bringing nightmarish worlds to life. Every sickening grin and bright red blood splatter is crafted with such beautiful detail that you can’t help but be in awe despite how terrifying everything looks. His artistry makes the comic’s atmosphere feel so much more gruesome and unsettling, which is exactly what you want from reading such a dark comic.

Meeting the Fiddler

Final Thoughts

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James is a unique tale. It’s got blood, gore, and the most vile creatures you can ever ever imagine. But ultimately, it tells a story about a kind but lost soul who is willing to do anything for love. Because the story is filled with plenty of genuinely disturbing moments and characters, it’s safe to say that The Many Deaths of Barnaby James is not a comic for everyone. But if you’ve got the stomach for it, the comic is a quick and fascinating read if you’re someone who loves the thrill of exploring dark and macabre horror stories.

Why You Should Read The Many Deaths of Barnaby James

  • It’s a short and sweet horror story packed with plenty of shocking twists and turns.
  • Piotr Kowalski’s art is haunting and nuanced. 
  • It does not hold back from exploring very dark themes and ideas.
  • There’s a surprisingly touching human story underneath all the blood and guts.
TAGGED: Dark Horse Comics
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