Today Black Ship Books reviews B. Alex Thompson’s Southern Hospitality. This graphic novel is adapted from a short story Thompson wrote for a horror anthology miniseries, which is actually featured in the book itself. Thompson really shows off his storytelling skills with interesting characters, interweaving stories, and unexpected turns, but I can’t say this was my favorite of his works for reasons I will explain later.
The story opens with Pebbles Collins, a lingerie supermodel, and her boyfriend driving down a highway through Boons Creek, Alabama, on their way to an industry party. When the couple gets pulled over by the local authorities, a large blade-wielding masked man intervenes and ends up chasing them into a nearby cabin where we see Pebbles’ boyfriend get decapitated. Cut to a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky where we are introduced to Nathan and Todd, two businessmen from New York on their way to a conference in Florida and our apparent protagonists. Nathan seems to be a carefree type with an interest in following serial killers and a propensity for chasing women and telling bad jokes, while Todd is a more down-to-Earth type with a stronger moral compass. While at the gas station the pair of men meet three college girls—Rebecca, Irene and Crissy—who are experiencing car trouble while traveling for spring break and end up offering them a ride. Eventually the group arrives at another gas station in where else but Boons Creek, AL. where they meet some locals who seem less than friendly and one who offers Todd a cryptic warning. When their phones and GPS fail to get a signal after leaving the gas station, the group winds up at a bed and breakfast off the highway where they meet Jodi, an online dater from Ohio who enjoys inviting men over to keep her company while she watches her parents’ hotel. Once everyone gets acquainted and comfortable, the story takes a turn from light-yet-mildly-creepy to gloomy and gory as members of the group turn up dead and the blade-wielding masked man returns to stalk his prey.
Southern Hospitality is good overall for a horror story and it’s almost cinematic in its pacing and offers everything one would expect from a typical slasher film in the form of plot twists, severed limbs, excessive nudity and sex, and some bad decision-making on the part of the victims. However, the book does fall flat in a few areas. At some points following the panels and the lettering was difficult and the transitions in actions and body positions between panels didn’t always make sense. One example of this is when one of the characters is seen with a knife in one panel, but inexplicably holds a gun in the next one. The story just seems peppered with minor details that are added for the sake of convenience or misdirection, but make the reader question them in the end. The main thing that irked me about the story overall was that one of the major plot twists gets jacked up once the reader sees the character’s actions throughout the story but learns what their true motive is, and realizes how little sense it makes. That’s all I can really say without ruining the story for horror fans who may be interested in picking up the book. There may even be some who may be impressed enough by Thompson’s storytelling and Kevin Richardson’s art to forgive the book’s shortcomings. As I said though, I enjoyed this book’s story overall but only lovers of a decent horror story would appreciate the trip to Boons Creek.