Beware of Strangers

Premiere Article by, Abigael Puritz

Suicide Forest

Writer: Dave Baker
Artist: Nicole Goux

It's rare to read a comic which, from the first couple pages, feels immediately more like a film than a comic in the usual sense. The new comic “Suicide Forest” written by Dave Baker and illustrated by Nicole Goux, is one that immediately sets out to turn the typical format of the comic book on its head. This is a comic that takes its time and forces the action to move slowly, which, combined with the seemingly innocuous setting of a typical suburban home, actually succeeds in creating a truly unsettling and upsetting experience. 

Producing a tidy synopsis of this story is not an easy task, due to the fact that actually, very little really “happens” in the traditional sense. What does happen is largely one emotionally charged event, which goes by in excruciating slowness. This creates the conditions for the reader to have a shockingly authentic empathetic experience. The story begins with clues, a man holding a mask, a dark suburban street at night, a map, a knife, handcuffs, miscellaneous odds and ends like sharpies and a half eaten cliff bar.  These items throw the reader into detective mode, trying to piece together what's occurring, with no apparent protagonist to help guide their inquiry. The story then proceeds to the main setting, a suburban home at night, presumably the one seen at the beginning of the book. It is from here that the main mode of the story begins, in the uncommon format of panelless pages, showing the same room from two angles, switching back and forth, for the rest of the book.  In a way that kind of reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock film “Rope”  this experiment in format pays off much to the benefit of the narrative. 

Baker's writing is, by and large, hard to pin down in this story, due it its peculiar construction. I applaud Mr. Baker for his willingness to eschew the usual format of “character set up, world set up, twist”. Instead he opts for sparse text, with sound effects actually doing much of the work in narrating the action. The writing seems to take much more of the role of “director” such as in a movie, rather than creating a lot of dialogue or complex storyline. Also unique to this style of small press comic is the inclusion of an essay at the end, which is more than a simple conclusion, rather it plays a very important part in illuminating the thought process behind the emotional gut punch which is this story. Baker writes in a raw and honest manner, which in no way diminishes the mysterious nature of the story, but connects it to his own personal experiences and thus the experiences of the reader.   

The art of “Suicide Forest”, by Nicole Goux, is honestly not what I would have imagined a story like this to look like, and that plays to its benefit as well. The drawings are both rendered in a unfussy and shockingly un-melodramatic pen lines and smooth grays, with the occasional splash or streak of ink. Upon second and third inspection, I noticed a distinct and unsettling change in the hue of the shades of gray around the middle of the book, from cool to warm. The almost cartoony style of drawing lies at a stark contrast from the usual horror comic style, which often relies as much on over detailed and rendered-to-death value contrasts to convey much of the fright. Goux's style, while creepy at times, is straight forward, and trusts the excellent writing of Baker (and the unique framing and pace) to carry its fair share of the dread and emotional weight. This sharing of responsibilities with regards to conveying the story's sense of fear allows Goux the opportunity, which she seems to take with gusto, to focus on human details which are really at the heart of the story- the objects in the room, the posters on the walls, the facial expressions of the characters at the moment the finally appear and dwell in the readers limited field of view.   

Overall, this story is a a unique, personal tale of horror, loss, and absence, all told in realtime. The combination of Baker's enigmatic storytelling with Goux's deceptively simple drawings creates an engrossing, suspenseful tale. I'm also always excited for comics which experiment with the format of the medium itself, especially in this case where the premise of the experiment seems so obvious, yet so under explored. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more titles by this duo! Pick up this book and more by the team here!

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