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House by Josh Simmons


by Josh Simmons

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An atmospheric and creepy wordless graphic novel. The wordlessness is, in this case, a strike against it; the small, scratchy drawings make it difficult to tell what's happening in many places. Is the guy a stranger, or a friend? Do the teenage girls know him? Have the girls been inside the house before, or is this the first exploration?

The story is a little confused, though--at times it wants to be a horror story, a surreal adventure, a romance, or a thriller. The resulting identity crisis makes the book hard to follow--finding an underwater city while exploring a decrepit old house makes a kind of sense in a surreal comic (like Shaun Tan's [book:Arrival]), but not so much here. They kiss underwater and are suddenly watching the sunset from a rooftop. The water is a surprise, as is the forest surrounding the house, as the house stood in the middle of a field when the guy walked up. If Simmons stuck with surrealism, there would be a sort of logic to it, but like this, it's more like mistakes.

Unfortunately, the genre problems aren't the worst of it--the art contributes its share of issues, as well. The back cover copy says they're all teenagers, even though one looks like an aging hippie--if they're all teens, that explains the budding romance, at least. A girl falls through a staircase, and her previously-fitted T-shirt turns into a toga--no sign of where the fabric went, no flapping torn cotton, just one boob hanging out for the rest of her story arc. As the story dwindles toward its conclusion, the house gets increasingly claustrophobic, evidenced by more and more black on the page, smaller and smaller art, until it's nearly impossible to make out what's going on. ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 29, 2013 |
In this wordless graphic novel, three friends decide to investigate an old abandoned mansion that has suffered great disrepair. Things quickly go from interesting, to creepy, to downright terrifying. It becomes clear that the house is actually a malicious character in the novel that begins to take over the human characters. Elements of fantasy come into play as tragedy strikes and the three friends realize that they must fight alone in order to survive.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this graphic novel is the way that it makes the reader feel as trapped as the characters. The graphics begin with a lot of white space and intricate drawings of the house. As the friends venture further into the house and are met with greater darkness, both literal and figurative, the pictures become blacker and blacker. In addition, the pictures that were once sprawling become smaller and smaller until they are only a tiny circle enveloping the characters. Similar to how the house becomes a character, the blackness becomes the text and it tells the story of the friend's descent into darkness.

However, I can only give this story two stars because the tale became a bit too odd for me. The premise was fascinating and I would love to see it polished and have a bit more depth added to it. It is possible that my complaints are merely because the novel to a turn towards science-fiction (not one of my favorite genres). It should also be stated that this is Simmons' first graphic novel and his craft may not be completely formed yet. Still, I think he will be an interesting author to follow and has great potential for the future.

www.iamliteraryaddicted.blogspot.com ( )
  sorell | Dec 9, 2009 |
House is an intriguing debut from Josh Simmons, and pulls off the challenge of a wordless graphic narrative with a lot of style and grace. I particularly appreciate the fact that Simmons avoids certain cliched story points that suggest themselves. For example, the bulk of the story finds the three protagonists trapped in a dark area (presumably underground) of an abandoned mansion. The obvious temptation is to add a plot point of having at least one of these characters run out of light via dead batteries, and yet Simmons simply avoids the obvious and goes for chills and thrills less expected. The overall color tone of the book moves slowly but surely from light to dark, mirroring the experience of the characters as they stumble through this oblique mystery. This is a worthwhile debut, and I'm looking forward to more from Josh Simmons. ( )
  dr_zirk | Dec 17, 2007 |
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