Black Crown’s newest book, House Amok #1, by writer Christopher Sebela (Hard Crimes) and artist Shawn McManus (The Sandman: Game of You), craftily introduces us to the Sandifers, a family in the midst of a very specific road trip across America like no other. A trip to seek out a dark, menacing force just out of our sight, on the peripheries of perception, and one only this family can see. But, in seeing them, they can see the Sandifers too. See them, touch them, haunt them.
It doesn’t sound too good for them already, does it?
The whole saga – a five part series – gets off to a suitably disturbing start in this first issue, narrated throughout by Dylan, the 10 year old twin sister of Ollie, both of whom have been home schooled by their own father. And someone who has a tantalisingly mysterious admission to make by the end of this first issue. The home schooling should be enough to recognise that this is not your average all-American family, even if this revelation hadn’t come close on the heels of a daring shoplifting trip that then becomes a kidnapping, and one that is more than supported by their family, as you’ll discover. This and further revelations will have you wondering: what the Hell are they up to? I thought these were going to be the good guys? They certainly seem to think they are, as they take on, “them… out there changing things.” But, I suppose, in the battle against the forces of darkness, sacrifices have to be made. Even if they are not sacrificing themselves.
Positioning one of the twins as this book’s narrator means, like Dylan, we only catch bits of the puzzle as she listens in on her parents’ plans and thus we remain as much in the dark as she is.
There are plenty of moments of unease and darkness in this comic, and Shawn McManus, no stranger to horror, is a great fit for this title. Not so much skeletons on the closet, but certainly buried bodies. I know every family has their secrets, but the Sandifers seem to have more than most. Along with the colourist, Lee Loughridge, the art team creates a book that is one part sepia-like sunset and another part darkness, with one moment of outstanding colour work across two splash pages which works even better when viewing to on a digital device. A great visual trick that attempts to recreate the sense of cinematic revelation.
Sebela’s story is offered up to readers as a fragmented narrative, which in itself will have you discombobulated from the very start. Being off kilter and confused is a feeling you’ll share with Dylan, and as you step further into their world, you’ll share their feelings of unease that are more than justified, especially when they look straight into the abyss, and the abyss stares back.
This is a book full of bloody portents and moody menace, otherworldly horror and the creeping feeling of no escape as the Sandifers are left, by the end of this first issue, with nowhere to turn to other than the long, long highways and byways of America. Already it feels like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Talk about your literal road trip to Hell. It would seem it’s not so much that the Sandifers are dysfunctional, but rather the world around them is. They’re just trying their best to survive and keep the demons at bay.
An eerie, entertaining book told through the eyes of a child, who herself is part of a family that makes the Simpsons seem functional, on a road trip even Jack Kerouac could never have perceived. Are you going to hop on board and join the ride to the darkside this August? My tickets already been punched and I’m in for the long haul. Someone come get me!
House Amok #1 is out in August, with FOC being next Monday, August 6th, 2018! That’s right, today! Go order some. And, out on August 29th!