Proctor Valley Road #4 is published by BOOM! Studios. It comes from the creative team of writers Grant Morrison and Alex Child, artist Naomi Franquiz, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Jim Campbell. We rejoin the girls as they attend school and bitterly listen to their classmates. However, as the others discuss their perceived guilt in the disappearance of two boys, August and Cora have a problem. Namely, their reflections in the mirror, which appear rotting with ghastly smiles.
When the four girls reconvene, they decide to visit their principal at the insane asylum. After his trip to Proctor Valley Road drove him mad, he was brought there to recover. The trip ends up being a mixed bag as the principal is too crazed to be of any help. However, after a trade with two other patients that leaves Cora shoeless, the girls find themselves in possession of a spirit board. They set out for a spot where they can achieve the best connection with the afterlife. But the Landlady’s powers soon prove greater than they expected, and new horrors await them.
Proctor Valley Road #4 marks a turning point in this series for me. This is in large part because we finally see consequences for everything that has happened so far. Despite all the miraculous escapes, our heroines are finally starting to actually feel the repercussions for their actions. Their classmates make rumors, shops deny them service, and, worst of all, the Landlady seems to be gaining control over them. This adds a degree of tension that the story had been lacking before. While it had always been eerie, the sudden realization that things might not work out alright, in the end, adds a great deal of depth.
This issue also does a fair bit of explaining as to why the Road is so volatile. This realization helps explain why some people have no issues traveling the road while others abruptly die or vanish on it. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is the tired use of Indigenous people as mystics. As well as the idea that their ancestral land could be haunted or cursed. It’s sad to see a story with as much potential as this one devolve into insensitive tropes. Thankfully this issue only touches on that briefly before moving forward.
The art continues to reinforce this story’s feel, and it’s more adult-oriented Goonies or Stranger Things style. But by far, my favorite part is the new visual foreshadowing of The Landlady’s possession. When a character is under her influence, their irises turn green and become slit. This can help to give the reader an idea that something is wrong before the characters, which ups the tension considerably.
I also really enjoyed the colorwork in this issue from Bonvillain. The varied palettes that they use help to capture the feelings of summer in a desert, with several variances. Particularly the ghoulish greens used when The Landlady is present. The letters are expectedly solid. It really is a unique talent for the letters in a book as verbose as this one to never be intrusive or feel excessive. Instead, the text is easy to follow and still allows for the gorgeous art to shine through.
I’m glad to see the overarching narrative add more tangible stakes with Proctor Valley Road #4. The characters and their conflicts feel as realistic as they always have. But now, it feels like the world around them has a tangible effect on them as well. After this issue, I’m very excited to see what comes next in this solid horror series.
The characters and their conflicts feel as realistic as they always have. But now, it feels like the world around them has a tangible effect on them as well. After this issue, I’m very excited to see what comes next in this solid horror series.