"House Amok #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing / Black Crown
Written by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Shawn McManus
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on August 29th, 2018
I'm sure we've all been on family road trips where you just want to murder everyone. You've been stuck in a car for hours on end with an annoying sibling. What if your family did the murdering? What if they tortured and killed random strangers in an effort to stop a coming apocalypse? That's where Dylan Sandifer finds herself. She might be the only one to see through the haze of shared madness that has permeated through each member of her family, including her twin sister Olivia.
House Amok drops you right into the action. For a brief moment, it looks like Dylan and Olivia are nothing more than mischievous kids...then their mother pulls a gun on a gas station cashier and their older brother starts beating the crap out of the guy with a baseball bat. Colorist Lee Loughridge presents these opening pages in a cool, blue palette, like this is the peak of normalcy when it is anything but.
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It's not outright said that the Sandifers are suffering from a mental condition called folie à deux, however this is outlined in the description of the comic and the term is defined on the first page. Instead, you're immediately pulled into this family's crazy world and it's more than a little unsettling. The idea that they're all seeing the same bizarre hallucinations makes me wonder if what they're seeing is real or not. Their actions could be justified if they were protecting mankind from horrible monsters. Otherwise, they're just insane and violent.
If it wasn't for the murder, the Sandifers would look like your average American family. Artist Shawn McManus designs these folks like any other group out on a road trip. They hide their madness well, perhaps to stay off the radar of the monsters they're hunting and/or hiding from.
This feeling really comes through in Dylan's narration for House Amok #1. First off, it's depicted as a school essay, so her internal dialogue is shown as clippings from lined paper. This is a great touch from letterer Aditya Bidikar. Secondly, writer Christopher Sebela gives Dylan this matter of fact way of speaking that gives the impressions she's a smart yet cautious kid. She's very observant, noticing more than she lets on.
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When House Amok ratchets up the horror, it goes up to 11 real fast. The normalcy turns into terrifying and mind-melting imagery. This is especially true for the mysterious creatures that seem to be haunting the Sandifers from a distance. These are the Slippermen. They're tall, dark figures with glowing red faces. They're reminiscent of the Slenderman, like they're all part of the same creepy family tree.
House Amok is a disturbing look at a family gone off the rails. It's these five individuals against the world, but the monsters they're seeing may not be real. This adds a layer of mystery that will keep you on your toes. The entire Sandifer clan is a wild card...a violent, dangerous wild card. I can only imagine what family game night must be like for them.