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“Somna” from Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay lives up to the hype — a gorgeous blend of creeping terror and haunting folk horror.


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Fans of folk horror and horror comics can rejoice because Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay’s long-awaited creator-owned collaboration Somna is a gorgeous blend of creeping terror and haunting folk horror.

Cloonan and Lotay write and illustrate the tale of Ingrid, a young wife living under the yoke of puritanical righteousness in a 1600s English village. Witch hunts and hysteria abound, and it so happens that our protagonist is married to Roland, the village’s overly serious and notoriously busy bailiff and head witch hunter.

The repressed Ingrid finds herself disgusted by the witch hunts, unable to stomach women burned at stakes and their charred corpses left out as a warning to Satan.

Everyone in the town has secrets — from Ingrid’s married friend to the husband of the latest victim of the witch hunt.

Ingrid has a secret in the form of an alluring and seductive sleep demon that comes to her in her dreams. The shadowy figure is impossible to resist, tending to Ingrid’s sexual fantasies that her husband is too preoccupied to satisfy.

The murder of a prominent town leader causes a barrage of accusations and suspicions, in addition to the growing witch hysteria.

Issue #1 of Somna is nothing short of gorgeous. Cloonan illustrates Ingrid’s waking life, while Lotay focuses on Ingrid’s dream excursions. Their art styles uniquely complement one another and are well-suited to tell both sides of this story.

The art styles give the project creative texture and depth that lends to the rich thematics of reality versus dreams. Cloonan’s panels, filled with crispness and somber autumnal colors, give the waking world a sense of harsh beauty, while Lotay’s seductively lush drawing and dark palette make Ingrid’s dreams intriguing.

It’s all a lovely collaboration and a precise balancing act between two artists and storytellers who trust one another and know their innate strengths.

Storywise, Somna is engrossing; when I finished issue #1, which is a whopping 58 pages, I instantly wanted more.

The world that Cloonan and Lotay have created is a horror lover’s dream.

It hearkens back to classic Hammer horror fare as well as cult folk horror favorites like The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). Though fans of newer folk horror films such as The Witch (2015), Apostle (2018), Midsommar (2019), The Feast (2021), and She Will (2021) will find plenty to love about the throwback horror vibes and eerie atmosphere.

Cloonan and Lotay pick away at female shame and repression via Ingrid’s character.

Women’s sexuality has long been a taboo, and folk horror often takes a thoughtful, hard look at how women and their desires are either repressed or considered evil.

The medium and the genre make it the perfect vehicle to analyze how society projects such shame on sexually autonomous women, degrades them, and instills them with a sense of self-hatred.

I look forward to seeing how these themes develop over the course of the next two issues. The first issue raises many interesting story threads and narrative possibilities that sadly mirror our contemporary world, where women are still berated for harnessing their sexuality.

Though, word to the wise, if you are averse to graphic depictions of sex in media, Somna is definitely not for you.

Cloonan and Lotay dedicate themselves to depicting sex that is built around the idea of female pleasure and desire.

The sex is woven into the plot seamlessly and makes a strong thematic statement within the piece. So, if you happen to be someone who prefers sex in media to be tied to a plot, this might be right up your alley.

Regardless, you have been thoroughly warned that this title is Mature with a capital M.

Issue #1 is an exposition-heavy promise of what is to come in this sultry folk horror yarn. Cloonan and Lotay present readers with a lot of potential and a relatable heroine to carry us through the story. Come for the beautiful artwork, and stay for the meditations on women’s sexuality and the start of some more subversive feminist folk horror.

Somna Issue #1 is available via DSTLRY’s website or your local comic shop. The issue retails for $8.99. Variant covers by many talented artists, including Joelle Jones, Jae Lee, Junko Mizuno, Dave Johnson, Allison Sampson, and Karl Kerschel, are available for Issue #1 at varying price points.

Lotay has several different variant covers as well, including one that will form an erotic triptych with the next two NSFW issue variants.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

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