Halloween Horror Review: Death Trap by Lane Milburn

To celebrate Halloween, this October I’ll be posting 4 reviews of self-published or very small press horror comics. The first such book is Lane Milburn’s Death Trap. Check back next Friday for the second installment in the series.

Death Trap by Lane Milburn

Death Trap by Lane Milburn

Death Trap
written and drawn by Lane Milburn

self-published / $12 / 112 pages

It’s an old story: children venture into the woods, or into the countryside on a trip, and encounter the strange, deadly people, sometimes monsters, who live there. Stark, brutal violence ensues. Some people die, so do some monsters. The survivors, however few there are, end up just happy—or is it lucky?—to be alive.

It’s a story that’s been told dozens, maybe hundreds, of times in different ways, from Evil Dead to Deliverance to The Hills Have Eyes to, heck, even Hansel and Gretel. And it’s the story that writer/artist Lane Milburn tells in his 1980s horror movie on paper, Death Trap.

Death Trap opens, as these stories often do, with a group of teens—some of who seem to be friends, others just along for the ride or some dubious thrill—heading into the woods for a night of drinking, getting high, and having some sex. What they get instead, of course, is horror visited on them for no real reason or cause by a trio of monsters. They fight for their lives and inflict some damage on the monsters and, of course, no one escapes unscathed.

It’s a well-worn story, but Milburn’s purpose isn’t to break new ground or provide fresh insight into the human soul. He’s not interested in a world composed of shades of gray. Rather, Death Trap is a balls-to-the-wall runaway train barreling through ultra-violence, dark absurdities, and horror. The teens aren’t terrifically three-dimensional characters, but they don’t need to be. They’re not the most interesting characters. The monsters are—and they’re pretty darn interesting.

“Monster” almost feels like the wrong word to describe Merriweather, William, and their unnamed leader—at least not physically. None of them looks truly horrific, more like odd, but their actions are certainly monstrous. And that contrast between their relatively mild appearances (and, in William’s case, a somewhat whimsical, almost silly appearance: he’s a body builder with a goose’s head in place of a man’s) and their extreme actions create an unpleasant friction that drives the horror home.

When the monstrous trio kidnaps the teens and brings them back to their house, their purpose isn’t what you might expect. They don’t have torture or sex in mind. Instead, their intent (I won’t say what it is to avoid spoiling the surprise) is so delusional, so strange, so … quaint that it’s almost comical. And it quickly calls to mind one of horror’s most famous instances of a blackly humorous ceremony held by a set of backwoods monsters: the family dinner from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

When this realization hit, my perception of Death Trap began to shift. Seeing the story through the lens of Texas Chainsaw Massacre reveals Death Trap to owe such a debt for its ideas and execution that it’s a bit hard to read the story as anything other than directly derived from Texas Chainsaw. This debt diminishes Death Trap a bit since it makes it less original.

Milburn’s art may strike readers used to mainstream styles as unfinished or sloppy, but it’s not. His approach both rests squarely in an alternative comics tradition (there’s even the occasional hint of R. Crumb) and in its grimy, unfinished, lumpy look calls to mind the 1970s/80s low-budget horror movies that it evokes. While the Texas Chainsaw influence detracts from the story elsewhere, here conjuring the same visual feel is a plus: the world the characters inhabit is ugly and richly illustrated.

Death Trap is a solid horror comic—solid enough that it was awarded a Xeric grant in 2009. If you enjoy the more seedy horror films of the 70s/80s, or are looking for a good action/survival horror story in the tradition of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s for you. But if you’re looking for a completely fresh take on horror, the overtones of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre will cause you to want to look elsewhere (and to some of the other books I’ll be reviewing this month).

Story: 3.5 / Art: 3.5 / Overall: 3.5
(Out of 5 Stars)


  1. Thanks for this feature! I’m a huge horror fan, but I don’t really have any horror books outside of The Walking Dead, so this is much appreciated.

  2. It’s extremely hard to be original in the survival horror genre. I think for people unfamiliar with TTCM, it will be a good read. I will probably check it out anyway, being a horror fan.

    Please keep the horror reviews coming, I’m sure there are things many of us have never heard of! On a related note, wonder if we’ll get a DC Halloween Special this year, given the relaunch?

  3. Cheers Sam! This is some serious indie/mini comix stuff. I never thought I would see this on iFanboy. You should do a story on Sparkplug Comics