REVIEW: DubCity Comics Presents: At Hell's Gate

Story by: Alan Nolan
Art by: Alan Nolan
Letters by: Alan Nolan
Cover by: Alan Nolan
Publisher: Dubcity Comics
Cover Price: 3.50
Reviewed By: David O’ Leary
First things first, I believe that this was of the first comic I have ever had in my hands that had been entirely produced by one person. Dubcity Comics is Alan Nolan and this first title from him was a doozy.
The setting of the story is based on a true location, Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Wilder, Kentucky. The true history of this place is unbelievable in that it is one of the most haunted sites in the US and has an unsettling history that Nolan interweaves into the fabric of his tale masterfully. Using real names and locations lends a sense of the legitimacy to the comic, even though the tale is fictional horror, it reads with a sense of foreboding that delivers unexpected twists with an inevitability that the protagonists will be ones to suffer those twists.
The book begins with an oral interview between Carl Lawson, a bar tender at Bobby Mackey’s Music World and Toby Doyle who is doing an investigation into the paranormal goings on at the famous site. The scene is laid out in such a way that you get a background straight out of the blocks and just like that the foundations are laid for the remainder of the book.
It is through Toby’s research for Professor Byron, a paranormal researcher that he ends up having to experience first hand the goings on at Music World with the voracious Kim Maguire (Mags). Once they enter through the front door the book really sets about fulfilling its agenda. Up to this point the first third of the issue was doing a good job of putting you at ease, so much so that you would almost forget that it was a horror book as all paranormal descriptions are through narrative and not first hand experiences for the reader. But as soon as the first subtle signs of weirdness begin to show up you are soon brought right back into the core objective of the book and that is to unnerve you relentlessly. The final third of the issue which throws the reader a curve ball that I wasn’t expecting followed by a second one almost immediately after was a brilliant one two sucker punch. I don’t want to give too much away but if you want to read it yourself don’t expect the core cast to return any time soon.
This is a well thought out book and Nolan has a great sense in his writing of where to reveal what at exactly the right moment. But as writer he does double duty on pencils and he uses the art to supplement his story effectively. The black and white style which he uses to tell the story is clear and his pencils are easy to follow. I have no complaints about the pencils actually and Nolan was able to get across the tone of the story without having to resort to dark ink tones too regularly to get across his points which was a refreshing change from some horror titles that take place mainly in shadow and you can’t see what is going on in an effort to be ‘atmospheric’.
Alan Nolan can be proud of his efforts with this initial issue. The main thing that he can do is to give the title as regular as possible release schedule. The only real contender to Nolan on the Irish comics scene horror genre was Sancho from 20,000 Leagues, co created by his namesake but no relation Alan Nolan and that book has only shipped five issues in about five or six years so the challenge is very real to keep this book in the consciousness of his readers. The quality of the work is apparent for all to see so essentially the only thing left to do is get book two.