Stealing Away The Contemporary Horror Genre

Identity Thief (Fanboy Comics): If nothing else, writer Bryant Dillon and artist Meaghan O’Keefe definitely win the award for creepiest use of the term “offspring” that I’ve ever seen. *Shudder* That unexpected little moment gave me a skin-tingling chill that I won’t soon forget. Identity Thief is the second original graphic novel published by Fanboy Comics (I reviewed the first here, Something Animal) and they’re immediately creating a consistent aesthetic to the line. Identity Thief has the same painterly qualities and intensely dark color scheme dripping with ink. From a thematic standpoint, these comics, which play like short films brought to paper (fans of the TV show American Horror Story take note), also share the same slick production quality and horror-infused supernatural elements to their human dramas.

This book sees Craig and Daphne move cross-country to escape a troubled past and begin a new life. While there is some blatant exposition to be found (the characters share indirect monologues about why they moved and who they are, mostly for the reader’s benefit) and some of the scenes play disjointed from page to page, (characters asking questions which are never answered in favor of rough unexplained jump cuts), I will say that those sophomore pitfalls from Dillon aside, most of the storytelling choices are otherwise fairly bold. I like how so many of the sequences are completely devoid of dialogue or text, allowing the art to shine and carry the primary means of information delivery, though the visual clarity of O’Keefe’s art still seems to need a little more time to develop in order to achieve this optimal balance. I do love the way that the art grows more chaotic and stylized as the anger and emotions builds in the story, it’s a nice mirroring effect that shows when the writer and artist seem to be the most in sync. During some of these sequences, the white colors serving as light indicators also really pop. I was reminded of the work of Ben Templesmith, or some of the other artists in this same aesthetic milieu, the kind I’ve seen with commercial success in LA gallery shows; people like the inimitable Jason Shawn Alexander come to mind.

In the face of the young couple’s new abode and the mysterious paranormal intrusion lurking, we learn that the real darkness in man seems to lie within. Typically the horrors in our own real lives, or even the physical manifestations that symbolize them in fiction, all stem from our own paranoid and insecure psyche. This seems to be another part of the connective tissue running through the burgeoning Fanboy Comics line, the examination of real world “monsters” as an aspect of confronting self and what we ourselves are capable of. That said, Fanboy Comics seems to be tapping into something primal, something tangible, and something socially relevant in the collective consciousness at this point in our history. The fascination with a type of intimate horror that comes from our own human nature vs. some nameless, faceless, interchangeable external threat. I’m sure that some literary scholar more skilled than I could make some sort of post-9/11 sleeper cell analogy about the proverbial “enemy within” fascination in contemporary pop culture (the recent Emmy wins for Homeland come to mind, or even the embedded paranoia surrounding the “skin-job” Cylons in BSG), but for now I’ll just say that this is engaging and beautiful comics from a company to watch. Grade A-.


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