The new horror imprint from DC, dubbed Hill House Comics has officially begun its run with the arrival of Basketful of Heads #1 by author Joe Hill. And it only took on issue to show why fans of Stephen King may want to be paying special attention to this story.
Parallels between the two writers have been made for years (it makes sense, as father and son). But as Hill's own writing credits have grown to include Locke & Key, NOS4A2, In The Tall Grass (recently adapted into a Netflix film), and more, both authors' worlds have come to stand on their own. But thanks to Basketful of Heads, it appears Hill is taking a playful step into the universe established by Stephen King's greatest novels.
The first bombshell is dropped in the pages of Basketful of Heads #1 by Joe Hill and Leomacs, in a single panel containing references to both Shawshank Prison and Derry, Maine. The former being the setting of King's novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, best known as the source material for Frank Darabont's film The Shawshank Redemption. For the most part, it's a break from King's usual horror fare, telling the story of a prisoner who escapes by digging a tunnel little by little over the course of decades.
It's far from a new idea to connect Stephen King's writing into a singular universe. It's not even the first time we learned the connection between Shawshank and Derry -- multiple characters from It served time there. It is full of references to other King books: The Shining's Dick Halloran (who returns in the sequel, Doctor Sleep) was one of the survivors of the fire that killed Mike Hanlon's parents. Characters in Dreamcatchers and 11/22/63 have been treated to glimpses of It as they travel through Derry, and the otherworldly "Macroverse" that birthed It also provides monsters for books like The Mist and the Dark Tower series.
Basketful of Heads' proximity to the evil influence of Derry suggests that something very bad is brewing for its heroes, but their situation is already pretty dire. In the first issue, June Branch and her cop boyfriend Liam are trapped in the house of Liam's boss with four prisoners who'd escaped from the Shawshank van. The flash-forward on the first page suggests she won't be the same once she leaves, showing a figure hidden under a yellow raincoat carrying the titular basketful of heads -- and the heads are still talking. And the plot synopsis suggests things are only going to get uglier:
Now she must fight for her life with the help of an impossible 8th-century Viking axe that can pass through a man’s neck in a single swipe-and leave the severed head still conscious and capable of supernatural speech. Each disembodied head has a malevolent story of its own to tell, and it isn’t long before June finds herself in a desperate struggle to hack through their lies and manipulations...racing to save the man she loves before time runs out.
With more secrets promised to be coming in each issue, it's likely fans will see even more connections to the King universe as the series goes on. Let's just hope Pennywise isn't somehow involved.
Basketful of Heads #1 is available now from DC Comics.