“Maniac of New York” was one of this year’s surprising hits, so much so that we dubbed it a Don’t Miss This this past May. And we did so with good reason: “Maniac of New York” felt like a slasher homage, Train to Busan (the whole story takes place on a subway) style, horror-satire bloodbath. Think “Nailbiter” but, well, more biting at times. So when we caught wind of a sequel, we knew we had to sharpen our meat hooks, don our hokey Halloween masks, and jump in the trenches. Let’s see what “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 is all about.
Written by Elliott Kalan
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Reviewed by Kobi Bordoley
After the tragedy of The Death Train. Detective Zelda Pettibone and mayoral aide Gina Greene have lost the trail of the Maniac — and the support of the city. Copycats are springing up. tensions are high and traffic is a nightmare. So. what happens when your favorite unstoppable. mindless killer resurfaces in a Bronx high school? Can Zelda and Gina get there before Maniac Harry adds to his body count? Will the students tear their attention away from their phones long enough to notice there’s a monster in the halls?
For those that remember, “Maniac of New York” took place almost exclusively on the New York City subway system. “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 opens up the space a little bit, taking us to the city’s northernmost borough. In doing so, Kalan gives the story more room to breathe, and gets to do some tidy worldbuilding. Well, maybe in a story about the blood-washed streets of New York, tidy isn’t quite the right word — but it is neat in its own way. For those who don’t know, the main conceit of the original “Maniac of New York” series was that Harry the Maniac was an essentially unassailable serial killer who strode around New York butchering straphangers by the dozens, so on and so forth. He evaded capture, and made life a living hell. That’s the horror aspect of the story. The satire came from how the world of New York City responded. They didn’t shrug so much as shrug and move on, learning to live with the reality that every day would be another crisis. We get the sense that this story is a dig on the fear driven, always-fearful society we live in today and its consequences.
All that’s pretty cool as an allegory or whatnot, but “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 takes the experiment a little bit further, and it’s a welcome change. “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 asks the question, a little more seriously but still with a sardonic bite, “What would a city under constant attack look like?” We get a glimpse of this: our story begins with a kid who moved from a magnet school in Manhattan to a local school in the Bronx, solely for the reason that Harry the Maniac, who preys on Manhattan subway commuters, doesn’t come to the Bronx. Raphael, the kid in question, walks into school listening to popular music in which Harry’s the main character. It makes sense that the maniac would take over popular culture, and despite the violence become a counterculture icon. Raphael’s school, obviously poorer than the magnet school in Manhattan, has a bunch of chumps for “Harry Security,” whereas his old school had much better guards. It’s intriguing to see a world molded by the violence Harry enacts, where things like surveillance and fear run rampant, one constantly overtaking the other and vise versa.
Outside the worldbuilding, the plot of “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 falls in the moderate to good range. Harry begins an assault on Bright Future Academy, and chaos ensues. Zelda and the rest of the cops face the wrath of angry citizens after they failed to stop Harry before. And somewhere uptown, a young girl allegedly has the key to Harry’s demise. We’ll see about that. This feels like a good set-up for a first issue of a sequel. We get to check in with the story protagonists, and just enough is teased to keep us going.Continued below
Since this is a slasher story ay heart, how are the slashes? We’re happy to report that they’re very satisfying. The colors in the story run the gamut, from reds to yellows and blue and greens, which makes sense: this is the big city, and it’s a diverse place. Things never feel messy or overdrawn. Mutti’s characters are to the point, but always with enough differentiation to capture our attention and endear us. Mutti’s art hits all the right notes, and in terms of Harry’s blade brutality, we’re served a symphony. There’s a heaviness to Mutti’s strokes that comes across on the page. Harry’s kills are deft, tasteful (as much as they can be), and elegantly gruesome. Mutti makes use of a lot of washed out colors, which is an interesting choice for the kind of story this is. You’d think that a slasher tale would be full of gore, and over the top saturation. Mutti has a different take, and goes for a more subtle style that really works. It feels different and artful, as if it’s making a statement that this story is more than meets the eye. And honestly, it really might be. Time will tell, but so far, “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 is a winner.
While it’d behoove you to read the first iteration of the story, you honestly could pick up “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 as a stand alone, and just jump right into the world. If you’re a fan of horror, humor, and art that’s more elegant than its subject matter should suggest, “Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning” #1 is for you.
Final Verdict: 8.7. Bloody beautiful, this is a story that stabs your heart while giving you a knowing wink. It’s a pretty good way to go.