Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #322: The Squidder by Ben Templesmith

It's OK if not everything is original. We have genres for a reason: they corral themes and tropes and ideas that we like to read about together, and every genre provides good entertainment for a while. (But never forever: found any good Western magazines lately? Or nurse stories?)

So a graphic novel in a scratchy, smeary earth-toned horror style, featuring tentacle monsters from beyond space that have to be defeated to save the entire universe, is no bad thing. And if it features a too-badass-to-be-true, much-older-than-he-looks soldier who is The One Man who can save that universe, so much the better. And if along the way he's aided by a gorgeous young female, who he doesn't quite trust because of her connection to the squids, well -- we know where we stand with that story, don't we?

That book is The Squidder by Ben Templesmith, which was the subject of a very successful Kickstarter campaign just about a year ago, became the limited-edition hardcover result early this year, and is poised to come out in a less expensive, generally-distributed edition in February. The art is dark, evocative, and attractively grotty, as you'd expect from horror expert Templesmith (Fell, 30 Days of Night, Dead Space, Silent Hill), and the dialogue is generally OK, even given that Templesmith came in to comics through the artist door (and given the requirements of this kind of tough-guy-saves-the-world exercise).

The Squidder is set in the indeterminate future, a hundred years after the apocalypse. Those squids appeared, invading and conquering, and mankind -- or what's left of it -- is now shattered and completely subservient to the creepy interdimensional aliens and their all-female quasi-religious cult. Well, actually, the squids are more interested in being creepy and interdimensional than in actually ruling Earth, so there's a patchwork of warlords and anarchy among the survivors. One of the legendary squidders -- genetically and biologically modified soldiers [1] who almost managed to defeat the endless squid hordes -- is left alive, wandering through the blasted landscape, unable to kill himself because of his programming.

But he's sent to bring back that girl -- to save her from one of those nasty warlords who wants to rape her, for a different warlord who also wants to rape her -- and goes full-badass along the way. She gets him to take her to the heretic squid temple, where the requisite Old Woman Who Knows All explains the plot and the One Last Chance that our squidder and his friends have to save our entire universe. They of course take that chance, and you can guess how it all ends.

The Squidder is a pure genre exercise, but just fine on that level: Templesmith's art is creepy and evocative, somewhere between Barron Storey and Mike Mignola. His monsters are horrible, his strong-thewed hero is laconic and deadly, and his action scenes deliver with the boom-boom. You are very unlikely to find a better comic about killing giant space squids if you search for the next five years.

[1] Because the way to kill an invasion of giant, flying killer squids from the spaces between worlds is obviously to give a bunch of bald guys superpowers, swords, and handguns instead of, I don't know, shooting at the squids with ever-larger tanks and fighter planes and nuclear weapons. As usual in comics, man-portable is the only way to go.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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