Broodhollow is a new webcomic by Kris Straub. He is best known for his long-running sci-fi webcomic Starslip and the gag a day comic Chainsawsuit. He's also a regular guest in the expanded Penny Arcade universe, guesting on various PATV shows and appearing at the PAX conventions. Broodhollow is a departure from his previous work. It is a period horror comic set in a Lovecraftian world of unimaginable horror. It's deeply rooted in psychology and quickly establishes that one long-form story will be told at a time.
Wadsworth Zane is a struggling door to door encyclopedia salesman. Out of the blue, he receive notice that he is the sole heir to his grand half-uncle's possessions. Zane has to travel to Broodhollow, the "Town of a Thousand Holidays," to claim the inheritance and possibly fix his life once and for all.
Zane's big problem is himself. He has severe anxiety, a ridiculous set of phobias, and one of the worst cases of OCD I've ever seen explored in the comic format. He has to blink with each step on a staircase and arrange everything in his life just so to prevent bad news. What's worse is that his rituals cause everyone to dismiss the horrible things he sees hiding in open doorways at night.
The strength of Broodhollow is its pacing. Kris Straub is in no rush to get right to the horror of the story. It takes many strips for a day to pass in Broodhollow. Zane will meet someone who sets him on edge. This leads him to ritualize more than usual. As he works on his rituals, he think he sees something in a dark corner or way off in the distance that no one else notices. More and more visions appear to him alone until a large event of unimaginable terror strikes the town. Then the sun comes up and no one remembers exactly what Zane saw. The newspaper, the townspeople, even the people he walked home with downplay a traumatic event as something commonplace.
As Broodhollow progresses, the events begin to stack on each other. You can write off one vision that may have been a dream. You can even write off Zane's fear of the hotel he's staying in or his belief that his pet bat might really be a monster. But everything that happens in Broodhollow taken as a whole cannot be a coincidence. You start to empathize with a narrator who arguably admitted his own unreliability. Then you realize this admission was coaxed out by the only therapist in the town that filled with unexplained paranormal phenomena.
Kris Straub is in the middle of his vacation right now and updating the Broodhollow site with concept art for the webcomic. A few weeks ago, he did a week of strips within the strip while he was busy with PAXEast. All of these things indicate a richly developed world of secrets that he's barely exposed the readers to. I can't wait to see what happens now that two characters with very different circumstances have been dismissed as unwell. You can read Broodhollow over here.
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