Dan wrote an interesting review on ZUKHANAUT last week, so I (Delta-v) thought of one of my favorite comics which I’d like to share as well. I got permission from author and artist Marius Hjelseth to do so. (Actually it was Dan that got me the permission–it’s nice to have powerful and influential friends.)
Since October 20th is a horror/mystery, It will take as little extra description, so here goes:
Six people whose only connection to each other is that each has caused the death of someone are sent letters telling them to go every October 20th to a remote abandoned shack in Iceland, and to remain there from midnight to midnight of that day, because “He” will come for them no matter where they are, but only in that one spot on Earth will they have a chance to survive.
When the comic begins, it has been nine years since “The Rules” were given, and of the original six, three are dead, one is missing, and the other two are making their way to the shack. During the time between October 20ths, the group members have researched their situation to try to make sense of what’s going on. At this session, information is shared which casts doubt on the truthfulness and motives of the person–one “Shields Mcklosky”–who sent the original letters.
The survivors embark on a continent-hopping search for Mcklosky, and some answers, but information is scarce, leads are doubtful, Mcklosky goes by many names–probably all false–and those who will talk at all tell of exploits which probably aren’t true either. If at any time you think you know what’s going on, you’re probably wrong, and if you’re confused, it means you’re paying attention.
How I Found It:
I followed a link from Charlie Wise’s webcomic Groovy, Kinda–a fairly frequent occurrence for me.
Why I Like It:
These are realistically depicted people. They aren’t super-sleuths, they aren’t hyper-intuitive, they aren’t even trained investigators. They’re just deeply flawed and traumatized people doing the best they can in a world where every answer brings more questions, and no answer can be fully trusted…..and yet they go on.
I love the fact that the people they interact with are puzzles in their own right, whether they are grudgingly helpful while giving vague hints and warnings, or being suspiciously accommodating, they add their own flavor of uncertainty to the mix.
The story itself is as engrossing as it is perplexing, as there are more than enough, “Oh, I see–no, wait a minute!” moments to keep even the most demanding puzzle solver satisfied, and is, as the saying goes, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” (my apologies to Sir Winston).
Marius is very god at revealing information that seems to stand up logically, and even better at making me doubt my own reasoning, and thus the validity of that information. This is a real talent, expertly delivered. I’m not a genius, but I’ve been around, and anyone who can keep me this off-balance for one hundred and forty-nine pages is doing pretty well.
The characters aren’t particularly likable sometimes, and yet I love them. I don’t care if they’re the product of someone’s fertile imagination, they’re real, darn it!
The comic’s style has a strong “film noir” feel to it like Dashiell Hammett, or Raymond Chandler, and if the horror owes more to “The Twilight Zone” than to “The Call of Cthulhu”, it adds just the right note of fear.
There’s plenty of angst and frayed nerves, but also enough humor to keep things from becoming depressing. It’s a great roller-coaster of a read, especially when you remember that a roller-coaster does more than just go up and down.
Things I Think Could Be Better:
A minor niggle–I have a hard time reading dark red script on a black background, especially as my eyesight dims. even one or two shades lighter would help.
But now for my biggest (and only other) problem: There’s nowhere to vote! I realize that some creators don’t like or want to bother with it, but when I read a comic I like so much, but can’t vote for it on something like TWC, it feels a little like watching a $100.00 bill swirl down a storm drain. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it makes me sad.
I know that horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or detective fiction either, for that matter, but Marius’ work is so multi-layered that I think it would reward even the doubters.