Review by Frank Plowright
Silent Hill is based on the phenomenally successful video game franchise of the same name, in which players explore a horrific town searching for clues that will eventually let them complete a mission.
Scott Ciencin uses an original cast and over the opening pages takes time to build character, with the appallingly arrogant psychiatrist Troy Abernathy called in to diagnose one time film student Lynn Deangelis, a psychiatric patient whose personality changed overnight after visiting Silent Hill. She now experiences terrifying dreams. When all else fails, he considers the best course of action is to take her back to Silent Hill and prove to her the town is ordinary. Are those alarm bells ringing yet? Much of the joy of horror in any format is the thrill of anticipation, and Ciencin instigates that well over an opening chapter, but from that point it’s the full on horror with barely a pause for breath. Troy is confronted with the secrets he’s kept for years as his past and that of his dead wife Julianna unfurl, and the roles of victim and protector gradually transfer.
Ben Templesmith illustrates the opening two chapters in his standard scratchy and blotchy style, so setting the mood. For whatever reason, he didn’t complete the project so Aadi Salman is drafted. There’s a shift in emphasis, as new characters find the footage Lynn shot in Silent Hill during her first visit, so there’s an excuse for the art switching to Salman’s painterly realism. Unfortunately, even accepting the contrasting styles, he’s nowhere near as good as Templesmith to begin with, and inconsistent, possibly due to deadline problems, as the art quickly develops, then drops off again, becoming very messy in places by the concluding chapter. Salman has a background in concept design work, has drawn very few comics before or since, and the best aspect of his pages is the striking red-haired design for Lauryn, who really stands out. She’s another with dead relatives and guilt, and how her story ties into the earlier material is nicely planned, but it’s one of the few redeeming features of what quickly becomes turgid.
An inherent problem plagues adapting a video game to comic format if attempts are made to remain true to the source. Horror games are sustained on tension and a constant parade of surprise threats, and Ciencin’s plots provide that, but at the cost of repetition. It should also be mentioned that the potty-mouthed infant Christella wears out her welcome very quickly indeed, but is present on page after interminable page. None of this appears to have bothered readers of Dying Inside as it spawned several sequels, most of which can be found along with this in the Silent Hill Omnibus. Ciencin followed up with Three Bloody Tales.