Not satisfied with being an accomplished artist, Hal is also a musician. Frontman for the horror-punk-thrash-metal band, Jason and the Kruegers, he obviously enjoys being in the spotlight.
I believe that is him in the viking helmet.
When Darth Biscuits sent me this title to review with the admonishment, “Be gentle, he’s a friend of the site!”, I was not quite sure what to expect. What I discovered upon opening his package delighted and amazed me. I now wish to share here, a little of the experience I had reading this enchantingly dark graphic novel.
Many times, the cover of a comic book while skillfully executed, can be merely a ruse designed to capture the potential reader’s attention and if possible, compel him to part with his precious coinage. In the case of this deliciously depicted integument, all that is promised is delivered.
The thing that first struck me as I opened the book, was the sullen, brooding, anger that emanated from the pages. Backgrounds that created an almost claustrophobic sense of confinement as if I was actually trapped inside my own head. The beautiful yet somberly painted panels offer a maelstrom of wildly abstract images intermixed with portraits of almost photographic realism. The book also contains elements of Christian, Greek, Norse and even Druidic mythologies that I found to be fascinating . As a fan of horror comics, I would happily add this to my library based on the artwork alone.
The story primarily features a nameless, but somewhat recognizable young protagonist who must ultimately discover his own identity and place in the chaotic universe into which he has been violently thrust. Relentlessly pursued for reasons unknown through the demesne of a cruel god, he is forced to put his trust in a powerful mystic entity known only as Autumn. As the story progresses we only see more of the deep symbolism so prevalent in this book. It seems almost like a nightmare, ripe for interpretation. As I reached the end of the second issue, I was left feeling perplexed and eager to have all my questions answered in the next issue, as the last page so tantalizingly proclaimed. Discovering that the next volume in this twelve issue masterpiece was not to be published until early 2014 caused me to grind my teeth with frustration.
I spoke briefly with Hal. He had this to say, “I tend to work on many projects all at once. Although, as odd as it may sound, “The Withering” is still the most important to me. I look at all my other work as skill building to prepare me for the next issue.”
Unfortunately, I am not certain that this book will be for everyone. The narration sometimes reads like the journal of a mad 19th century poet. I often found myself reading pages multiple times. In order to appreciate the full impact of the stunning illustration, and rich melancholy of the text, one can not simply glance briefly at the page. It must instead be studied. Pored over like an ancient scroll penned in some forgotten tongue. For the casual reader, this may be too heavy of a commitment. This is most definitely not an issue of “X-Men or “Avengers”.
The only difficulty I could perceive was in the occasionally laborious translation of the tiny, ofttimes almost indecipherable verse. One must understand however, that the unique font adds to the character of the book and that to enlarge it might detract from the visual clout of this expertly painted graphic novel.
All in all, this is some very good shit. If you consider yourself a purveyor of fine graphic art and like a good story, you owe it to yourself to read “The Withering”. It has earned a place of honor in this clown’s collection and would be a lovely addition to yours as well.