House

Created by: Josh Simmons

Published by: Fantagraphics

ISBN: 1560978554 (Amazon)

Pages: 80

Genre: Horror

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House

House presents for me a difficulty because I deeply wanted it to succeed better than it did. I’m a big fan of a single person working hard to bring their narrative dreams to paper reality. It takes a lot of work on the part of the creator and so I dearly want all such efforts to succeed.

You may have already guessed by my tone that House doesn’t succeed.

The storytelling conceit of a wordless story conveyed through simple art is cool enough, but though Simmons’ art is generally competent enough, its cartoony style doesn’t allow for some of the nuance he seems to be trying to convey. There are panels in which one cannot be certain whether the characters are talking or arguing or messing around or perhaps something else entirely. This makes the storytelling difficult to piece out.

As much as I’m loathe to diminish Simmons’ experiment here, I was often frustrated by the narrative inadequacies created by the book’s use of silence. I desperately wished on several occasions that there had been some sort of narration or dialog present so I could understand what story I was reading. Readers can easily ascertain the overt storyline of kids exploring an abandoned—and perhaps haunted—mansion and the inevitable trouble such investigations must incur, but anything more that this is partially (and sometimes entirely) obstructed by the book’s deficits.

Still, while the book ultimately does not succeed, there are some things that it essays spectacularly. The revelation of the lake and the sunken parapets and chains was great. The finale with its increasing tightening and dramatic build worked very well for me, and while I couldn’t always make out the expressions on our three protagonists’ faces, the darkness enveloping them more than made up for what couldn’t be seen. And perhaps the best choice of all was the use of the front and back covers to bookend the story and give a strong metanarrative clue as to what’s going on.

While in the end I didn’t think much of House, I found the concept worth the investigation and hope to read future works by the creator as, with most things, diligence and practice will likely hone his craft.

 

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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