Aug 2015

Why I Read: False Positive

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Today’s “Why I Read” webcomic review is brought to you by John Kratky of Coffee Time Comics, in his “Read This Webcomic” blog section.  This review originally appeared on his blog here.


What makes a horror fan?  What exactly is it about me that I connect to horror so easily, and have since I was a young kid?  Some of my earliest memories are of seeing King Kong on TV at my grandmother’s house, and sitting with my dad watching Godzilla movies and Creature From the Black Lagoon while he watched us during the day before work.  Could it possibly be just that my dad was a sci-fi fan growing up and that was passed on to me by way of horror?  Maybe there’s something wrong with me?  Is there a suppressed memory from my youth that has me attracted to the darker side of things?  I can’t tell for sure, but I do know as I grew older giant monsters turned to the gothic horror of Universal, then went to grosser places like Re-Animator and The Evil Dead, while at the same time discovering the books of Clive Barker and Stephen King.  And of course it went everywhere it could whether it be the films of Vincent Price, or my introduction to horror comics through Tales From The Crypt, and of course reading H.P. Lovecraft.

Although the avenue for horror that I enjoyed most growing up was always movies, I find myself at 37 discouraged by the lack of good modern horror films, but I’m pretty okay with it as well because there is a rich history of movies from all over the world and every era that I can still discover.  There’s also plenty of places outside of film for me to look as well.  In fact, right now I’m in the middle of a love affair and exploration of the horror anthology comics the existed during the pre-code fifties.  While I grew up reading EC Comics re-issues, I had no clue on just how many of these things there were.


How I Found It:

While devouring and learning from these masters of old, I reminded myself that I shouldn’t stray too far from comics being created now.  I can sometimes do this as I feel so dispirited by modern works it becomes a bias.  It’s a bad attitude to have and I end up missing out on some good stories, so I looked through my “Webcomics To Read” bookmark and remembered that there was an anthology comic I had wanted to dive into for some time and maybe I should jump in.  Of course I’m talking False Positive.


In this scenario, “SHLUK” translates to “Shit out of luck.”


Why I Like It:

Now, I don’t want to steer you wrong, False Positive is not just horror, but I can guarantee that something horrible is always on the cusp of happening.  The stories also delve into the genres of sic-fi and fantasy, with inspiration coming from noir, heist movies, action, body horror and basically any style it feels.  The comic not only jumps around from era to era, but also worlds.  As each story starts, you really don’t know what you’re getting, even when you think you do.  A huge difference within this anthology from the anthologies of old is that there are reoccurring characters as well as open-endings.  When you read the anthologies of old, the endings are pretty straight-forward: revenge is fulfilled, or the bad guy dies.  False Positive almost always ends right were most writers would continue, often a thought-provoking moment that helps you realize that there was a place before this story happened, and there will be a place after.  As you get deeper into the archive, you realize that some of these characters will come back, so when you hit those open endings you wonder what that moment will lead to in future comics, or if there will be some greater meaning to all of this later on if and when the comic series ends.  But it also may simply be part of the  nature of False Positive, where everything is just connected thematically and philosophically.

All of the interconnectedness, recurring characters, and thematic similarities flow so seamlessly from story to story because False Positive comes from the mind of one creator named Mike Walton.

Mike has a specific style (At least in False Postive.  I haven’t read Dual.) to what he does and it is easily recognizable in both art and writing.  While the structure of the art goes for a very natural, realistic look, it is between the lines where a more surreal, almost psychedelic quality exists, and when the horrifying things happen, when shit gets wild, the art keeps us within this world believing that it is all going down.  The writing helps as well, going for straight-forward dialogue that keeps us in the real-world, and then always picking the right panel or succession of panels to bring on the weird.  We are always wanting to click to the next page because the suspense of the stories is so successful.

“Mommy, don’t be mad. I didn’t mean to rummage through your dead smurf drawer.”

“Mommy, don’t be mad. I didn’t mean to rummage through your dead smurf drawer.”

Not only does the comic keep you tuned in because with each successive page you have no clue what is coming, but with each story as well.  The current story (As I write this of course) seems unlike any of the previous, with a serious meditation on nature and the choices we make, which is happening not only within the writing, but in the art as well.  When it comes to talking about the individual stories, it’s easy for me to pick my favorite ones, but it’s hard to talk about them, mainly because I don’t want to spoil anything.  Half the fun in reading Mike Walton’s comic is the discovery.  You want to experience the twists, turns, and surprises, though that isn’t all it has to offer.  The first story posted, Concoction, is one of the shorter comics of the bunch, but it easily tells you everything that is coming if you choose to continue on with this anthology series.  I feel like if you get to the end of this one, you’ll have a good idea of whether this comic is for you or not.  Of course I think everyone should keep going, but if you can’t take the imagery on the last page of this story, there is only more of that to come.  I actually felt that this was an excellent story to start with because it has all the elements of False Positive, whether it be sci-fi, horror, or fantasy rolled into one, well, concoction.

Other stories that stood out to me were Ache, which was fun, weird , and gross; Constriction, which is body horror on a level I’ve never seen; Seance, probably the spookiest of the bunch; Stink Eye is a bleak look at mother nature (not necessarily our mother nature) and her creepier inhabitants.  I say bleak for that last story, but actually, most of the stories here are pretty damn bleak.  Don’t let that scare you away though, because the bleaker aspects are handled with a great understanding of dark humor.  One of my favorites was the ending of Specimen (The link doesn’t take you to the ending), a horror/sci-fi hybrid reminiscent of The Thing (Or maybe The Thing From Another World.  Your choice, geeks.) with an ending that could leave you cold, but more than likely will have you smiling at the very human reaction to everything that happened.

As a sucker for dystopian future stories, Fail is my favorite of the bunch.  It’s a story with a future that doesn’t seem impossible, if only because we have history steeped in the kind of miserable control exhibited, but it isn’t just the dystopian aspects that I enjoy.  If the corruption that is occurring isn’t enough, the plot turn that happens expresses the ugliest aspects of the human psyche when there is a bureaucrat involved in even the most personal decisions.  The turn shows us how easily the authoritarian nature of the state passes on to the citizen when otherwise the normal progression of life and its struggles would be the only thing dealt with between the parties involved.

I wish I could say more on these stories, but this is really the best I can do without indulging in the details.  You need to experience this comic for yourselves.

That time you didn’t have dental insurance. OR False Positive is a comic with teeth.

That time you didn’t have dental insurance. OR False Positive is a comic with teeth.


Things I Think Could Be Better:

Anybody who reads these reviews knows that what I do is not critiques (yet), but recommendations.  That being said, I like to talk about things that I would like to see improved, and for me it is usually something about the website.  I usually associate my computer with work these days.  It’s where I create comics myself and I already spend so much time on it that I prefer to do my reading of blogs, comics, and whatever else on my Kindle.  While reading False Positive, I was having a hard time getting pages to load.  The tab would actually time-out at times because it was taking a page so long to load.  I haven’t had this problem with any other comics that I’ve read, or anything really.  I don’t know what on the page is causing this because when I click-through from page to page on my computer, it isn’t so slow.  I found this frustrating because I enjoy reading through a comic on my lunch break at work, but I usually couldn’t get through a full story.  I actually did something I rarely do to get this review going, I sat at my computer and read the comic.  For me, that is a testament to how good the comic is.

[Dan addition: I sat at my desktop and waited, but never succeeded at getting the site to load.] :(

One other small problem I had was that there were no direct links to individual pages in an archive.  This might be something that the author did on purpose.  Maybe he wants people to experience the stories as a whole, and I get that, but as a reader, I sometimes like to easily jump from page to page for reference reasons.


Closing Thoughts:

Putting the small problems aside, I highly recommend this comic, and you can tell from the thriving community in the comments section that many people feel the same way.  You can actually fix the Kindle problem by purchasing the comic at Comixology, where he also has another comic that I series already mentioned titled Dual for sale.  As do most comics online, Mike has a Patreon as well where you can help support future work.  Beyond all that, you can follow him on various social media outlets, and I just found a print archive where he releases a new sketch for every day of the month of October.  With all that, Read this comic guys, it’s really fun, sometimes gross, and always engaging.

I now leave you with this badass image of Boris Karloff as The Mummy!

When there is no image of Vincent Price, you go for the next best thing.

When there is no image of Vincent Price, you go for the next best thing.