Comics Review

'Strange' Brew

Though updates of the ''Strangehaven'' comic-book series are maddeningly infrequent, they're worth the wait, says Nisha Gopalan

Strung out on the ''Strangehaven'' series

It's a triumph for U.K.-based writer-artist Gary Spencer Millidge to release, in a single year, even two issues of his original comic Strangehaven, an 18-issue project that's consumed him for an entire decade now. But is an intermittent update about an unassuming English village inhabited by a deliberate assortment of eccentrics really worth the wait? We'll say!

Creepy and languorous, Strangehaven — which counts comics royalty Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Brian Talbot (The Adventures of Luther Arkwright) among its fans — is frequently and adoringly compared to either Twin Peaks or The Prisoner, that utterly beguiling '60s cult British TV series in which The Man traps an ex-spy on a mysterious isle for reasons unknown. In Millidge's tale, the subject is youngish passerby Alex Hunter, who survives a random car accident during a vacation and, once his vehicle is repaired, can't seem to navigate past Strangehaven's perimeter. Unflummoxed, Alex shrugs off this rather ominous sign and decides to settle down in the regrettably named hamlet, where he enjoys a blossoming romance with schoolteacher Janey and encounters the local flavor (a half-Amazonian shaman, a self-professed ''alien,'' a blind-deaf lady who talks to animals...).

As the townsfolks' lives slowly and meticulously interweave, more sinister realities unfold around the woodsy landscape. For one, it turns out a majority of Strangehaven's working stiffs belong to the Knights of the Golden Light, a masonic society that's clearly up to no good, if their pointy white Klan-like hats and menacing catchphrase (''So mote it be'') are any tipoff. Then there's that apparition of a lady in white who keeps freaking out new-citizen Alex, and the fact that Strangehaven's city limits are proving completely elusive to him.

And we're stuck right there with him. In a medium rife with pows and bams and booms, Strangehaven is something of an anomaly: It ambles; it stalls; it digresses. Yet remarkably, it works. Be this a function of his deft pen or a disdain for deadlines, Millidge flirts just enough with our sense of curiosity to keep us glued to each mesmerizing page, rarely compromising his work's air of impending doom. And that's why we're prepared to (im)patiently wait until October — yes, October — when the next issue of Strangehaven is expected to hit stands.

Strangehaven Volume 1: Arcadia (issues 1-6): A-
Strangehaven Volume 2: Brotherhood (issues 7-12): A
Strangehaven Volume 3: Conspiracies (issues 13-18): B+

Originally posted Apr 13, 2006
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