Wednesday, 7 October 2015

More ways than darkness: Broodhollow

I'll admit I was never particularly interested in Kris Straub's Starslip. I thought the strip was facile and throwaway. Perhaps that shows my own shortcomings because his most recent strip Broodhollow is a long-format webcomic horror that's slow and delicate. 

Admittedly there are cliches: protagonist sad-sack Wadsworth Zane is slowly sucked into a recursive universe in the town of Broodhollow. Consider him to be a variant of Willy Loman mixed with Walter Mitty injected into Twin Peaks. If this cultural milieu is self-evident then it is the underlying structure of the world created around Broodhollow belies any qualms about originality. 

The reader gradually sees a series of patterns underlying the story as it starts to show that it possesses a somewhat unreliable narrator. This creates a twee piquancy about the patterns present. Perhaps you'd call it a oulipo inflection or a formalist approach to narrative.  The realm shown here is constrained and seduced by ritual and the reader's task is to unweave what's been created.

There are times where the strip veers into 'comic logic' but this doesn't make for any real paucity. This is a newspaper strip comic with a horror inflection. There is typically a humorous 'beat' at the end of each strip. This means the use of ritual as a means to understand limits and liminal spaces is not a despairing note.

The use of colour veers between expressionist smudge and clear-cut borders smoothed with a paint effect. What's interesting is the difference between the sheen of every day encounters and the uneasy haze created by horrific scenes. The transfer from twee meanderings into chilling darkness is a nice and solid build-up and shows this is a work of an experienced creator. 

The underlying strangeness of Broodhollow is a subtle mix. This isn't an expansive world and it sets its borders within the town and submerges it into a Lovecraftian undercurrent. This is a good accentuation of Straub's earlier work as it is more contained, measured & visually expressive. While I was never particularly enamored of Straub's facile take on sci-fi cliches this is a mature work that is created with a certain and sleek liquidity

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