"Clarkville" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Drawn Out Dad Productions
Written and Illustrated by Maarten Bouw
2015, 25 Pages
After reading Stephen King's The Shining, it's easy to see how a hotel could be haunted. Hundreds or thousands of people pass through every year and some even die there. Clarkville is one such hotel. Ghosts allegedly lurk through its halls. That doesn't bother Eric. He needs a job and this place needs a new chef. It's not long before the ghosts begin to engage with Eric and send him off the deep end. All the guy wanted to do was cook for some strangers.
There's definitely something off about Clarkville from the jump and I'm not talking about the manager's blatant racism. (Seriously, who says, “I've never hired an Asian before, but you're right, we do need a chef.”?) You never see anyone else aside from Eric and the other staff. It's a little too quiet. Granted, Eric works in the kitchen, somewhat removed from the guests, but you should see them around other areas of the hotel. This makes the appearance of the ghosts much more chilling, as they just appear out of thin air.
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Unfortunately, the ghosts' stories are somewhat disjointed. One is the spirit of a former chef, although why he's haunting this hotel is anyone's guess. The other is a woman that was murdered here ages ago, but that doesn't seem to have any bearing on current events. She's just spooky looking.
Maarten Bouw's artwork is rather flat, like the characters are paper dolls cut out for a little play. Almost everyone is directly facing the reader, which makes the art direction bland, as it's not much more than a bunch of talking heads. Even when two characters are speaking to each other, they're facing forward, which is just unnatural.
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Bouw provides a nice effect for the ghost of the chef, showing his shadow as a twisted, menacing version of himself, although I'm not entirely sure how a ghost casts a shadow. It reveals his true intentions. His regular form may be smiling, but the wall behind him shows a clawed monster ready to pounce.
Clarkville has some good ideas within its pages, but it comes through as clunky. It could be streamlined a bit more to get to the scares, which would allow more room to explore the ghosts' backgrounds and the hotel in general. Why is it haunted? Is management in on it? What was up with Eric's pills?