Cemeteries are a common setting for atmospheric horror stories, but Noel Freibert’s new Koyama Press graphic novel, Old Ground, offers an off-kilter perspective of this landscape. Old Maple Grove is a cemetery in a state of severe dilapidation: the names have worn off the gravestones, statues have crumbled, and the grounds are overgrown with weeds. It doesn’t serve a purpose anymore, so the property is being reclaimed, razed, and turned into a nursing home for people on the cusp of death, but not quite there yet. Freibert’s story blends absurdist humor with grotesque visuals, transporting readers to a strange, unpredictable environment that is constantly revealing new facets of itself and the organisms that inhabit it, whether they are plants, animals, or deceased humans.
In this exclusive preview of Old Ground, a demolition worker discovers the hidden terrors of Old Maple Grove when he smells the flower growing at the end of a weed, quickly realizing he’s made a big mistake when he realizes that it reeks of dirty flesh. These pages highlight the hallucinatory quality of Freibert’s storytelling, and seemingly innocuous things like flowers become increasingly horrifying as they shed maggots and bloom to reveal skeletons with a penchant for torture. Freibert manages to incorporate some comedy into this torture sequence, specifically with the final shot showing the mutilated worker dangling in front of cemetery gates. The “condemned property” sign now reads “damned properly,” and it’s a clever bit of wordplay that encapsulates Freibert’s dark sense of humor. Old Ground is currently available from bookstores and online retailers, and it’s a great book to check out as we head into the Halloween season.