Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Sophie Franz's The Experts: Creepy Feelings & Riveting Read

Sophie Franz's The Experts is a riveting comic. An exercise in atmospheric horror ambiance. It is frightening, spectacular and haunting. I've always thought (and said before) that Horror was a combination of moods and moderation, menacing yet restrained. Horror is a balancing act between the untold and the known. Few can do it well. The Experts is not specifically a horror comic, nor is it fully a science fiction comic, it is a bit of both and it combines elements of both genres to tell it's story effortlessly.

The Experts tells the dreadful story of three scientific experts sent to a remote station in a massive body of water studying strange water humanoids. What becomes apparent is that something is not right with the set-up. They are mis-remembering things and losing touch with their superiors. But the set-up is only a part of the larger story. The puzzle is there for the reader to unravel, but almost as if we are provided with pieces from three different puzzles with the same image, the pieces never really fit together.

Franz's mastery of colour is impressive. She uses white space in a number of areas to enhance the story in different ways. Obviously to let the reader focus on the characters and be unencumbered by background details but also and to perhaps an even greater degree, to amplify the feeling of unease inherent to the story. Are there no background details because the characters simply have stopped noticing their existence? The gradients are also superb, setting the tone of unease at the beginning of the comic. Our experts are here to observe, but who's observing whom, and for what purpose. Most impressive is perhaps Franz's ability to capture facial expression. All of her characters are unique and convey different emotions and subtle changes within very well. A striking achievement, especially considering that her characters have no eyes, one of whom is a humanoid fish.

This story would feel like the perfect set-up for a Doctor Who episode. A few scientists are holed up in a distant and remote locale and haunted by bizarre creatures. They're doomed until the Doctor fixes the issue. But there is no saviour in this story, just characters spiraling ever further into oblivion and helplessness. So far one of my favorite reads of 2016. I'll make a point of following Sophie Franz's Tumblr page moving forward. You should too.

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