feature by Andrea Towers
What mysteries await us when we let our minds lose control? Could the deepest and most terrible things be hiding inside of us, simply waiting for us to surrender to them? And if we do surrender to them, are we ever able to escape their hold and return to normal? Were we ever normal to begin with?
What might sound like the start of a horror novel is actually the theme of REGRESSION, your delightful new supernatural horror obsession. Written by horror master Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Sixth Gun, Empty Man) with an artistic debut by Danny Luckert (Haunted) and colors/letters by Marie Enger (Pistolwhip, 2 Sisters), REGRESSION is the story of what happens when your dreams take you too far—and what happens when they become more than just dreams.
REGRESSION's main protagonist is Adrian, a seemingly innocent young man who lives a life that's tormented by waking nightmares. And these aren't normal nightmares about things that go bump in the night. These are nightmares about death and nightmares of terror, and they happen to Adrian while he's out and about in public—and awake. At his breaking point, Adrian decides to see a hypnotist who practices regression hypnotherapy in the hopes of understanding why these visions occur. But as we learn in the first few issues, well...maybe that isn't such a good idea.
Adrian comes back from his regression therapy with something that's more sinister than his usual nightmares. After going back in time and witnessing some truly horrific moments of destruction and murder, he returns to himself with a renewed sense of understanding. As we soon learn, however, Adrian's reincarnation is one that's more of a mystery, escalating to a level of insanity that's a little terrifying. In other words, these dreams become worse. They pull you in, and they don't let you go.
In this way, REGRESSION becomes the story of survival—survival of a friendship, survival of the demons inside your mind, and survival of the world as we know it. REGRESSION asks us to think about the big picture: not just how do you distinguish between what's real and what's not real, but how do you keep your most deeply hidden issues from escaping into the world? The power of comics is that we can count on them to reach deep into our minds, affecting parts of our thoughts that we've never tapped into before. REGRESSION takes this "escape" and ups the ante by asking us to consider what could happen if those untapped parts of us ever became too much to handle.
Take Adrian's friend, Becky. She doesn't know what to do with him. To her, he's just someone who has a lot of issues that are making it impossible for him to live his life. But she wants to help him, because she cares about him and his mental health. She doesn't shy away from him when his problems get worse, and, in fact, is one of the only people who is there for him no matter what. Becky tries to give Adrian something that will anchor him to this world, but little does she know that he's slipping away thanks to a cult-ish hold on his mind that's spiraled out of his control.
While readers are aware of Bunn's affinity for horror, they might not know he's closer to this particular source material than usual. "My father was a professional hypnotist for many years," Bunn said in a statement to Image Comics when the book was first announced. "While it wasn't part of his on-stage act, he often conducted past life regressions. During these sessions, I saw people describing other time periods with pinpoint accuracy and even saw someone speaking a language they did not know. I also witnessed some really extremely creepy regressions that planted the seeds for this story of supernatural horror conspiracy."
Giving a story about nightmares and conspiracy a supernatural slant is not only interesting, but it offers us the opportunity to consider our own lives in the context of what we believe and fear. The kind of dreams or nightmares that Adrian has are often portrayed as outlandish. But even though some of the things that Adrian faces are gory and seem out of this world, the book treats these visions with seriousness. This is a horror story, but it's also a story about human struggle, and reading it, you never forget that.
REGRESSION #1 is available for preorder now, and debuts 5/10.
Andrea Towers is an entertainment writer based in New York, whose work has appeared in Variety, Paste Magazine, Marvel.com, and more. Previously, she covered comics for Entertainment Weekly and EW.com.