Friday, March 6, 2015

Genre Savvy: Broodhollow

A couple years ago (yeah, it's been that long) I was in the middle of my Genre Savvy series covering the topic of Horror.  I lamented, sort of, that I really didn't have a good example of Horror within my lists.  Flatwood worked for some of the ideas I wrote about, but not all of them, and Twilight Lady didn't exactly fit the bill either.  Neither was a good webcomic example of the genre.

Then I read Broodhollow.

I don't go out of my way to read Horror of any kind, and Broodhollow was something that I just didn't look at immediately, especially as I had already a good idea what kind of work Kris Straub produces via Starslip and Chainsawsuit.  Which doesn't mean I didn't hear good things, I did, and when I read the comic, I was quite pleased.

And I immediately thought about that Genre Savvy article because it fits it so well.

The first is the atmosphere that Broodhollow creates.  Being a small town creates a kind of safety, but then the weird things happen, the first being that it is the town of "1000 holidays," which is strange to start.  Then the Fray starts getting involved by making everyone but Zane forget about being attacked by giant bats.  With "secret" societies and monsters running about, the town takes on a mysterious feel.  It's not as dark and foreboding as, say, Silent Hill, but the oddness makes it clear that something strange is going on.

That said, the real focal point is Zane, who is described on the cast page as "phobic."  Not specific, he just seems scared of everything.  I think that's more the joke as he obviously isn't, but he is constantly on edge, his nerves being strained repeatedly.  He's the first to note the oddness of the town, and one of the few people that seems, well, not immune, but at least resistant to the Fray.  The story thus revolves around his unwilling unraveling of the town's mysteries and secrets.

It's hard to relate horror through a static medium, but having someone experience the fear for the reader helps and Zane does all that and more.  His idiosyncrasies, his obcession with patterns and even a bit of OCD makes every scene with him seem that much more on edge than it would otherwise be.  Few of the other characters even remotely come close to that same impression, but they all seem more effected by the Fray than Zane, so while they all see the monsters, he REMEMBERS them.

Oh yes, the monster designs are pretty good too.  There aren't many really, but they're so distinct from the more cartoony designs of the rest of the comic that they stand out and are far more terrifying.  They are abnormal compared to this world, more realistic and just plain scary looking.  It's amazing that no one does remember them.

Back to Zane though.  Despite being scared almost all the time, Zane actually represents both emotions that come in good Horror.  Yes, he's scared, he's seen horrific, terrible things, he's haunted by his own fears and worries, and yet, he's a door to door salesman.   A person who goes up to strangers homes and knocks on the door.  There's a courage in that action, and he shows the same thing in other situations as well.  When the local rich bully, Planchett, calls him a fraud to his face, insults him and declares his desire to boot him out of town, Zane goes to him with the possibility of selling the antique shop.  Yes, Zane is phobic, but he has this ability to face off against these fears.

At the end of the last book, as he prepares to dive into the watery lair of the most recent monster, he's told his is very brave and he responds with "I'm scared to death."  That fear is, spoiler, the defense against the fray, but it also is what good Horror should do.  Yes he's scared, yes the monsters are terrible, but he does it anyway, bracing himself as best as his terrified mind can.

Broodhollow is by far the best example of Horror in comics I've found so far and I look forward to exploring this strange universe, the town and it's characters in the future.  As soon as Kris gets to publishing the next book.  Come on man, it's March already, let's go.

Next time, um, probably nothing honestly.  I've got 7 straight work days coming and I doubt I'll have time for much of anything.  We'll see of course, but I make no promises.  Until next time kiddies.

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