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Made a Wrong Turn Once Or Twice

Gehenna: Death Valley

By Becka Kinzie 

28 Apr, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


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To quote Becka Kinzie’s website: 

I’m a freelance artist from the K‑W Region. I’ve also been working as a colour flatter and colouring assistant since the early 2010s. In my spare time, I create my own macabre series of comics, which are posted online. The pages are eventually made into comic book issues, and so far I have self-published 15 of them (for sale at events/conventions).

Kinzie’s on-going horror webcomic Gehenna: Death Valley is one of several to be found on her website. 

Teenagers! Just how blatant do warnings have to be before teens will actually pay heed? In the case of Lauren, Max, Sean, Max and Anika, more blatant than this. 

Hilarity can only ensue. 

Thus far there have been three episodes in the series: 

Episode 1

Marcie had planned to artfully steer Anika and Max into each other’s arms. It would have been better to first check to see if Anika and Max have even the slightest bit of interest in each other. Which they do not. A rest break is a welcome respite from an increasingly tense car trip. 

When she and Anika stumble over the no trespassing sign, Marcie does the only thing a sensible teen would do: crawl under the fence to see what is so cool that it requires this sign: 

Despite being aware that this is how many horror films start out, Marcie’s friends follow her. They don’t find instant death. No, just an abandoned park and what seems to be a natural cave complex. Of course, they cannot resist exploring the cave. 

What waits for them in the cave are multiple opportunities to wander off alone, of which they take full advantage (as is traditional in these sorts of teen sagas). Their curiosity and courage are well-rewarded. 

Episode 2:

The screams are still fading as the episode begins. Which of the two missing teens (if it was one of the teens; perhaps there are others down in the labyrinth) screamed is unknown. So is the reason why they screamed. 

Off on their own, both Lauren and Anika gain unique perspectives on the labyrinth and its inhabitants. Some of those inhabitants have noticed the intruders. To some of the locals, the kids are tasty morsels. To others, inspiration for dread. Not because the teens present a threat, but because documenting the kids’ inevitable fates will entail endless paperwork. 

Episode 3:

Frenemies Lauren and Anika take advantage of an opportunity to process their well-established enmity. Meanwhile, as Marcie and Max try to find their missing friends, they come to realize they really don’t care for each other. No matter; new friends are eager to meet them. 


The quintet make some poor choices but they are character-driven poor choices. The group is drawn to what I assume will be painful doom by Lauren, Anika, Max and Sean’s desire to make Marcie happy. Lauren and Anika want to please Marcie because they are her friends, Sean wants to because he is her fiancé; Max tolerates the situation because he is Sean’s good friend. 

Unfortunately for the kids, Marcie combines wilful blindness with bad ideas: not only is her scheme to match Anika with Max doomed by their mutual indifference, her plan to get Lauren and Anika to like each other seems to be based in a conviction that other people will fall into line if she firmly insists that they do so. 

That said, it’s not all Marcie’s fault that matters are going poorly, because it should have been clear to their hosts that this sign 

will at best only deter the majority of passers-by. A minority will react to it like a cat to catnip or an MIT student to the chance to raft the Susquehanna River during Hurricane Hazel [1].

We also learn that the hosts are well into a process known as the normalization of deviance, in which unacceptable behaviour becomes accepted practice because it’s never ended badly … before now. Intrusion, equipment failure, deviation from safe procedure: none of these will overcome misplaced confidence. 

The art is a bit clunky but the story and my desire to see Marcie eaten by a giant spider led me to archive binge the whole thing in one sitting. So far, Marcie seems to have escaped death but I have high hopes for chapter four. 

Gehenna: Death Valley can be found here.

Feel free to comment here.

Please send corrections to jdnicoll at panix dot com 

1: Which went very well, until it suddenly went very badly. A good example of the reason for using the terms port and starboard instead of left and right.