Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Crawl Hole by Craig Collins and Iain Laurie

NIGHTMARISH and macabre, Craig Collins and Iain Laurie's Crawl Hole is a disturbing, dark and devilishly funny book.

The cover, which hints at the pair's countryman Frank Quietly, and depicts sharks circling around a diver should have been warning enough that these were two creators who scented blood and were going in for the kill, yet it was with innocence and naïveté that I opened their comic on my commute.
Like a cup of coffee laced with rat poison their assault on my post dawn malaise was ruthless, the dark, twisted tales they tell worming their way into my memory, taking root and promising to haunt me for weeks to come. 
As a child I was terrified by the covers of the HP Lovecraft books on my mother's nightstand and Crawl Hole made me shiver in memory of that fear deliciously. 
Laurie's art is visceral and reaches into something primal inside. It's also beautifully detailed and intricate and flicking back through the book I found myself enjoying some of the fine detail that I missed on my first read through. 
Collins writes with a vicious wit, and as sparse as the dialogue is at times, it's considered and integral to the pacing of the story. 
Never is that more true than in The Quiet Burden, where the only words we read are the insipid, repeated lyrics to a pop song, drumming into our head, simulating the rising madness of the old man, spurring him on to his brutal duty. 
Even as the horror fades away, our hero literally washing himself clean of the act he's committed, the lyrics drone on quietly, as a shadow washes over him from out of shot, hinting that for him, this nightmare is never quite over.

The pair veer beautifully into the surreal on occasion too, with the opening story House of Mercy a prime example, tantalising presented in three languages simultaneously, it tells a tale of a family rite, an end of life ritual where a son leads his grandfather to a lonely shack to fight a last bloody battle against an army of animal headed brutes.
There's a pathos here, perfectly complemented by some of Laurie's best work in the book, particularly when he zeroes in on the inbred, redneck-looking son to show the pain etched on his face as he throws one last Molotov Cocktail to toast his father's life as it ebbs away. 

That same tone is apparent in The Pain of Being a Man, which is a delightfully understated single page that I keep coming back to in a desperate attempt to unearth it's secrets.
But of all the nightmares Laurie and Collins seem determined to leave me with, the one most likely to have me waking up sweating at night is Food Glorious Food, which deftly twists a nursery rhyme into something deeply disturbing and malevolent, and is the sort of thing that only festers in the murkiest of minds.

Crawl Hole is revelatory to me in the sense that it opened my eyes to what mini comics can do with the horror genre. 
Whether I wanted my eyes opened is another matter, but now they are I doubt I'll be able to close them again anytime soon.
'Luckily' for me, the 'care package' that came via casa Collins has a number of dark treats yet to divulge.

You can find Craig Collins on @craigcomicssetc and craig-collins.blogspot.com and Iain Laurie @iainlaurie.

No comments:

Post a Comment