"The Squidder" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by 44FLOOD
Written and Illustrated by Ben Templesmith
2014, 144 Pages
There are all kinds of stories about the end of the world. It's a popular topic. The planet blows up or zombies rise from the dead and eat everyone. These dystopian tales show a bruised and battered humanity, struggling to get by in a world where the status quo has changed. In Ben Templesmith's The Squidder, the cause of mankind's decline is a race of ancient alien squids. You read that right. Cephalopods from outer space invade the planet and kill a whole mess of humans. I assure you that I am not doing this book justice with that description.
The real kicker in The Squidder is that it takes place long after the invasion ends. At this point, the people that are still around have never lived in a world without the squids. This is all they know. As history is written by the winners, there is not much information out there about the invasion. Instead it's referred to as a human rebellion. One man remembers the truth, and he holds a grudge.
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The main character is perhaps the last remaining Squidder; genetically enhanced super soldiers created to battle the alien invaders. He's stronger and faster than an average man, and nanobots in his bloodstream can help him heal from just about any wound. He also just wants to die. When presented with a job opportunity that might lead to his demise, he takes it, leading himself down a path that ends with an epic final battle with the squids. On the surface, this might seem like your average "last job" type of story in which a seasoned veteran takes one last score before retiring, but it's so much more than that. Templesmith has created a massive mythology here with many different sects and sub-species, dating back years and years.
The design for the title character fits the bill of your stereotypical action hero, but in a far darker world. He's like Bruce Willis crossed with Jason Statham with a badass factor of eleven. He has rough, grizzled features, masking a soul that has witnessed so much death and destruction that he's tormented by it to this day. He's reluctant to get involved at this point, but he sees a chance to take the fight to the squids once and for all. Maybe this is his way of atoning for his survivor's guilt after watching his family and fellow soldiers die.
Templesmith was born to draw this book. It really plays to his strengths in the weird and demented. This is a disparate world which has lost any shred of hope. The best that these people can attain is living to see another day. Some have embraced the squid, seeing them as the saviors of the world. These worshippers are mutated, growing long tentacles from their fingers. It's somewhat disturbing to see this as it feels so unnatural.
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The climax of The Squidder is a bloody battle filled with gore and dismemberment. Our hero hacks and slashes his way through the squid forces and Templesmith brings it all to life in big, bold panels. The pacing of the final pages feels like the best action movie you can imagine. You can practically feel the dramatic score pumping as the blows are struck.
It should be noted that this edition is goddamn beautiful. This is the hardcover as published directly by 44FLOOD through Kickstarter. There will be a paperback sooner or later from IDW Publishing I'm sure, but it won't be able to hold a candle to this. It's an oversized hardcover that really lets the art pop on the page. This is a very high quality book and I'm looking forward to future releases from the publisher if this is what I can expect.
The Squidder is a story of renewed hope where once there was none. It's a story of second chances and redemption. Templesmith has created a world that would make the gangs in Mad Max quiver in fear and a main character that would cause Wolverine to run and hide.