For a person who likes horror and such, I read very few comics that fall into that category. The out and out horror comics I’ve picked up on occasion usually lacked story and relied on shocking visuals, which didn’t really do anything for me.
So it’s perhaps not a surprise that Broodhollow, despite being a horror/supernatural suspense comic, is much more of a story driven comic than an out and out horror. Indeed there aren’t any really “graphic” pictures to be seen in BroodHollow at all.
Broodhollow is still relatively “young” in webcomic terms, not quite three years old and only two completed chapters to date, though each chapter is effectively “book” length. Still I think it’s worth picking up, if it’s your sort of thing, on the strength of its work to date and the promise of the stories to come.
**The comic was being updated with three new pages a week (M-W-F) but has dropped back to a less regular two pages, sometimes one page, a week due to family commitments of the author. It isn’t clear if there will be a return to the three pages a week but I’d expect it to at least stabilise on two pages a week.
The characters and comic concept
Wadsworth Zane is an anxious fellow. It’s hard being an encyclopaedia salesman in 1933 with the depression on and all. And no matter how many times he opens and closes the mailbox it’s still full of overdue bills to pay. But when he receives a letter informing him of a surprise inheritance waiting for him in the town of Broodhollow perhaps his luck as finally turned...or (cue the spooky music) has it?
Wadsworth is a great main character, struggling to deal with difficult circumstances despite his anxiety and apparent OCD, he is easy to like and engage with. He can be quite humorous at times, in his own way, though it’s often defensive in nature. Somewhat introverted, or perhaps self-absorbed, he can be a bit tone deaf to the perceptions and emotions of others.
The two main supporting characters aren’t quite developed to the same level. The first, Iris, is the plucky female supporting character who is quite pivotal in the story and very likeable but I don’t feel that we have gotten to see a lot of depth in her personality to date.
The second is Dr Angstrom, an Austrian Psychoanalyst, who acts as Wadsworth’s sounding board and confidant. An Austrian psychoanalyst is a cliché in itself and really the character hasn’t risen much above that though he does get a bit of growth late in chapter two.
Outside of the main three there are some very likeable supporting characters, not developed to a huge extent but enough to work.
Conceptually Broodhollow is an old style supernatural mystery or horror, but more of a Lovecraftian horror if you will. It plays a lot on everyday anxieties and fears as well as working in some folklore and urban legend style references.
The strength of Broodhollow is in the ideas and concepts that inhabit and drive its stories. There aren’t gory images to scare and disturb you in Broodhollow, it’s your realisation or your sudden understanding of what has happened that deliver the chills.
It’s hard for me to judge how scary or not Broodhollow is - it’s much the same as a comedy, how funny (or not you find something is really down to your personal taste. I don’t find Broodhollow scary personally but I was delighted to find myself surprised several times along the way with some delightfully creepy plot twists.
As with many suspense/horror stories part of the appeal of the story is wondering what on earth is going on. You get little hints and suggestions along the way but so far nothing truly substantial. But at some point more details will presumably be revealed, the management of this and whether it lives up to the build-up will, in my opinion, be the deciding factor between Broodhollow being good or great.
The art of Broodhollow is done in a style that I presume is meant to hark back to comics in the 1930’s though I couldn’t find anything to substantiate that. It’s a very likeable style in any case, kind of cutesy which in a sense highlights the creepiness of the content.
There is some very clever use of shading and lighting to alter mood and impact and as well as the occasional sudden shift of art style. Having said that the only place the art lets itself down slightly is when it does shift style but doesn’t quite pull off the delivery of the art.
Author, publishing and timeline
The author of Broodhollow is Kris Straub who works full time as a web cartoonist and podcast host and resides in Seattle, USA.
Kris has written a number of previous webcomics (links on the Broodhollow main page), co-hosts the gaming podcast 28 Plays Later and co-created an animated series called Blamimation. Links to all of the above, and more, can be found at http://studios.chainsawsuit.com/.
Kris has run Kickstarter’s for the first two books/chapters of Broodhollow and both digital and print copies are available of book one on his shop page. Presumably book two will be also be made available in due course.
Timeline is very hard to predict this early in a series. If I had to guess, and I do like to have a guess, I’d say we’re a quarter or a fifth a way through the major plot line, so another 6-8 books to come.