House Amok #1 Review
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Cover Artist: Tony Sandoval
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Review by Grace Taylor
This review may contain spoilers.
All families have secrets, regardless of how normal everything seems on the surface. What seems like an average, wholesome family, is certainly not the case in Christopher Sebela’s House Amok #1.
In the opening scene, Twins Dylan “Dyl” and Olivia “Ollie” Sandifer, are planning to steal some sunglasses from a gas station shop in order to get the attention of the shopkeeper. Little does he know, he’s about to get ambushed by their older brother and mother. They take this unfortunate man into their bus and things get pretty dark right away.
The way the story develops is striking to me. At first it seems like events are happening in the present. However, the story cuts to a flashback narrated by Dylan. It seems to be a more innocent time for the family. Here they have two dogs and enjoy family dinners. The twins annoy their sulky, teenage older brother, while the parents try to maintain order. The twins also have a deep connection with each other (described as “a family inside the family”).
As I read this book, I was generally confused and questioned several things. The insanity within the family escalates as Dylan narrates her story. At times, it was hard for me to tell what was reality within the story, even after the reveal at the end. However, this ambiguity added to the mystery and kept me invested in the story.
One of my favorite things about Shawn McManus’s artwork, is the close ups of the character’s faces. It is in these panels that you can clearly see the distinction of the characters’ personalities and their mental states, particularly between Dylan and Ollie. Dylan appears to be innocent, yet burdened and worried. Where Ollie has an intense and crazy wonder in her eyes.
The use of color is also very interesting, as Lee Loughridge oftentimes uses monochromatic panels throughout. For instance, one or more panels will be washed with red or yellow colors. This artistic choice creates a surreal feeling to match the mindset of the characters. It’s particularly effective in the most dramatic horror scenes, which are completely encompassed in black and blood red. I also love the way horror images and ideas are mixed together with regular, wholesome family moments. An innocent game of “I Spy” on a road trip, reveals some frightening hallucinations (or are they real?).
This book is not for the faint of heart when it comes to violence and scary images. The violent scene at the beginning was not the only shocking moment in the book, after all. However, there seems to be more implied violence, than actual full depictions of violence, so far. I was very impressed with the storytelling and the mystery surrounding this family. Sebela takes the time to show the bond of the family, which made me more invested in Dylan’s inner conflict. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in suspense, horror, and great storytelling.