"Straitjacket" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Amigo Comics
Written by El Torres
Illustrated by Guillermo Sanna
2016, 112 Pages
Trade paperback released on April 27th, 2016
Alexandra Wagner is crazy. She’s been locked up in a variety of mental institutions for years after brutally murdering her twin brother (who was also named Alex because their parents clearly hated them). She claims she committed this act to fight strange monsters called Feeders that exist on the edges of our world, feasting on emotion. Here's the thing though, what if Alexandra isn't crazy? What if everything she's been saying has been real all along?
That's the hook for Straitjacket, and it's a good one. It immediately presents you with some terrifying possibilities, but you're not certain of what to believe. Artist Guillermo Sanna crafts mind-meltingly scary monsters that would cause anyone to lose any grip on reality. The thing is that Alex is the only one that sees them...at first.
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Sanna's artwork is presented in black and white with the only additional color being the red of blood, of which there is quite a lot. The opening pages show Alexandra as a child, covered in blood, having just murdered her brother. The corpse lies in front of her, literally torn to shreds. Markings are carved into the table and drawn the ground below. This was a ritual of some sort.
Fast forward to the present day. Alexandra is now in her twenties and has been shuffled from one institution to another. She's passed into the care of a new doctor named Thomas who decides to try out some different methods in an effort to get through to her. Unfortunately for him, the monsters see him as a new target. The pacing of these scenes outside the treatment facility can easily stand toe-to-toe against the scariest horror movies out there today. Thomas sees a few girls sitting on swings in the shadows on his way home. No sound is made aside from the occasional “chink, k-chink” of the chains slowly swinging in the breeze.
It's tough to describe the Feeders, as they're all pretty unique. They somewhat resemble twisted forms of humanity with long, slender limbs and claw-like hands. One has hypodermic needles for fingers. They have cold dead eyes and their entire being glimmers on the page in a hazy red. This is where the creators use the medium extremely well. The Feeders seem to pop out at you when you least expect it. One moment Alexandra is talking to her nurse and the next (as you turn the page), this demented creature is standing in a near full-page splash panel, practically leaping out at you. These shots remind me a bit of Iain Laurie's work, which is certainly not a bad thing.
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Writer El Torres pulls you in to this story so damn quickly. At first, Alexandra is hard to read, especially since she's brutally killing her own flesh and blood on page one. As you learn more and more about her as a character, you start to realize that she's the smartest person in the room. Even if she is crazy, she's playing everyone around her. She soon becomes someone you'd most want on your side if you're forced to battle monsters.
Straitjacket pulls no punches, delivering a terrifying reading experience that builds to a monumental climax. Do not read this before going to bed. Guillermo Sanna's artwork will give you nightmares. I'm getting chills just flipping through the book again and I know what to expect. These are the kinds of monsters that if you were to actually see in the real world, you'd just curl up in a little ball on the ground and pray that you were seeing things. It turns out you are...and they're getting closer.