Script and art by Dan Schmidt
“Homeless spirit medium Delane exists in a jaded world but, when her only friend is murdered, she hits rock bottom. Marco is a ghost trapped in a rotting corpse craving revenge against the same person that killed Delane’s friend. Together, they embark on a quest for blood that metamorphizes into a journey of self-discovery and redemption. They find virtue in freeing souls damned to roam the earth even as a sinister power intends to keep the souls bound forever. Borrowing liberally from established myths and paranormal pseudo-science, this supernatural thriller with a heart pits existentialism and the depths of friendship against ghosts and hungry cadavers.”
Worms Crawl In is a 160-page horror/supernatural graphic novel. The book is Dan Schmidt’s debut graphic novel. Growing up as a self-taught artist with a big comics collection, Schmidt graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Illustration. He disappeared in the concrete jungle of New York City emerging years later in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Often when first-time creators send me a book and it’s 160-pages, it’s not going to be a good read. Too often new indie comic creators try to put EVERYTHING into their first book, yielding a bloated, meandering narrative. I was afraid this would be the case with Worms Crawl In and, to be honest, was one of the radon’s it took me longer to jump into this book.
Once I dove in though, I was immediately hooked, and Worms Crawl In was a surprisingly well-written, well-illustrated, and masterfully crafted read.
With a name like “Worms Crawl In” I wasn’t sure where the story would take us. We meet Delane and quickly realize she is fed-up with society. She’s experienced too much heartbreak and betrayal to really trust anyone anymore. Marco is a zombie, ghost seeking redemption for the horrible things he did in life. The two cross paths and our story begins. The two navigate a world of dark magic, spirits, and human villains as they attempt to atone for Marco’s life and free other spirits.
Schmidt’s story is classic in some senses, and new and refreshing in many others. He puts a unique spin on a currently over-saturated zombie genre and makes it feel nothing like anything else you’ve read lately. In fact, as soon as I finished the book I messaged Dan to tell him how good his story was. The story concludes perfectly and I’m not sure I could have asked for a better ending. Worms Crawl In concludes without the need for a sequel, yet with the possibility of more stories to come.
Not only did Schmidt write the script for Worms Crawl In, but he illustrated the whole thing also. With a degree in illustration, Dan does a wonderful job of bringing his words life on the page. For the most part, characters are visually well-developed and come through with personality. The entire book is illustrated in black and white, which I love and adds to the feel of the story.
There were a few times I got confused between the depictions of the various mail characters. There is a point when three of the male characters look similar and it took a moment for me to decipher who was who.
For mostly being dialogue between a zombie and a human, it’s pretty good! Delane’s character is the most well-developed by her interactions with others, in particular Marco. I would have liked to learn a bit more about each character, and I think there was opportunity to do so. All-in-all the dialogue is good, moves the story along, and feels natural.
Worms Crawl In is a massive undertaking for a first-time creator, and Dan handles the story construction and technical details very well. There are minor storytelling improvements that could be made, but nothing that truly detracts from the mechanics of the story. Everything from balloon placement, to pace and flow, to climax scene is well throughout and executed.
The book is well-edited and I didn’t find any grammatical or spelling errors.
Worms Crawl In was a refreshing indie horror read. In a genre that is often filled with indie authors attempting to recreate the gory movies of their childhood, Worms Crawl In tells a surprisingly human story. I was so impressed with this book that I ordered a physical copy as soon as I was done reading the digital. I cannot wait to see what Dan does next, he has a very bright career ahead.
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