"Something Animal" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Fanboy Comics
Written by Sam Rhodes and Bryant Dillon
Illustrated by Robert Burrows
Trade Paperback released in December 2011
Sometimes the greatest horror stories are the ones that come completely out of nowhere. I'm not talking about cabins in the woods or ancient Indian burial grounds. I mean something that just comes out of left field and truly shocks you. That's how Something Animal starts. Jack and his sister Lily are walking home after seeing a movie when they're savagely attacked by a random stranger. Jack is knocked to the ground and forced to watch as his sister's throat is slit. She bleeds out as he struggles to do something...anything to stop the attacker. All he gets for his trouble is a deep bite in his arm as the killer flees.
Jack falls into a deep depression as his wounded arm festers and bleeds. He finds himself fighting strange and violent urges while dealing with hallucinations and flashbacks to his sister's murder. It's as if the killer has infected Jack with the rage that caused him to commit this heinous and unprovoked attack. His sanity is slowly falling apart, leaving something dark behind.
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Authors Sam Rhodes and Bryant Dillon delve into a disturbing section of the human mind with Something Animal. Jack can't come to grips with what happened to his sister. It was a senseless act that he never would have thought possible. Meanwhile, he's practically turning into the monster that killed Lily at the beginning of the story. Instead of rebelling against it, he's embracing it and that's a dark path to walk down.
Something Animal is told with minimal dialogue. Rhodes and Dillon let artist Robert Burrows run wild. This is a good and bad thing. It starts out very clean and organized before Jack's life is ripped to shreds. What follows is a savage journey with art that feels violent at times. Burrows' style reminds me a lot of Ben Templesmith, which is definitely a compliment; however the characters often have some awkward poses. Since Burrows is responsible for the bulk of the storytelling, this comic really sits on his shoulders. Unfortunately, this has mixed results as there are several sections that could have used even a small amount of text to help clarify the situation. There were times when I couldn't tell if Jack was having a flashback or going through a psychotic episode or just sitting down in his kitchen. It would have been really helpful if the flashback panels were colored with a different shade so they'd stand out more.
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With how much Jack changes throughout Something Animal, I would have expected the panels to have a more chaotic look to them. Burrows' artwork captures Jack's inner structure, but it's put into regular comic boxes. The panels could have been a little more varied.
Something Animal is a very unique graphic novel that deals with some twisted facets of the human psyche. It forces the reader to confront the possibility that a senseless act of violence could happen to a loved one. How would you react to that? Would you fall into depression or turn it into a positive charitable organization? Or would you be like Jack and embrace the ugly and bloody aspect of life?