By Andrew Cheverton and Chris Doherty
Why are you here? What do you want?
Two questions on the back cover of this second issue of Whale House, a comic that set itself up with issue one to be a grand mystery, spooky and teasing, and all of those questions remain resolutely unanswered as yet.
Yet it really doesn’t matter. Because this, ladies and gents, is a superb read. In fact it may be one of the best things Cheverton’s ever written. And that’s some praise as I’ve yet to talk about his new issue of West. And it’s absolutely Doherty’s best work thus far.
It’s thrilling, mysterious, creepy in the best way – that slow, creeping realisation that something really isn’t right.
Issue 1 (Review) was all questions and no answers as we met young Diggory Wallis, who’s having a bad time; he’s just walked away from his girlfriend, his job, his friends, and his life after finding out his dead parents had never quite found the right time to tell him he was adopted.
He’s out for some space, to get away. His desperate flight ends in a ditch, car broken down, deep in the countryside. Pitching up at he nearest house, the pallatial Southlands, home of the Whale family, Diggory finds everyone convinced he’s their missing son Doran.
Yep, questions, questions, questions. Who were these people? how could a mass delusion like this work? is any of this real? and just who is that mysterious man starting and ending the issue?
But practically none of them are answered in this issue. There are little details filled in here sure, we know a lot more about the complex and dysfunctional Whale family, but beyond that this issue actually poses more questions and answers almost none. Indeed this issue actual adds one big question to the mix, but I’ll let you discover that one.
Crucially, there’s no sense of frustration or annoyance at being teased so much, and it’s all thanks to the delicate way Cheverton and Doherty combine to draw you into the story, just as Diggory finds himself drawn into the situation he finds himself in, sat round the family dinner table, decision made to bluff his way through and get out in the morning, too late to make a fuss now. Throughout the issue the tension builds and builds, and even though there’s little out and out menacing here, it’s again all down to storytelling, perfectly done. I don’t think I’ve ever been this breathless at the end of a comic where essentially the protagonist has dinner and meets a strange family before. But it’s all about the questions isn’t it?
Complex, intriguing, multi-layered, a ghost story perhaps? a dream? something else? We’ll not know for a little while yet, but it doesn’t matter, the journey is the thrill. The cumulative punch of reading issues 1 and 2 really is visceral, a perfect lesson in how to create brilliant mood through character based drama.
Like I said at the start, it’s writer and artist on best form here, Doherty matching Cheverton every step of the way.
The Whale House is available in a digital edition from Comicsy here or print version from Cheverton here. There’s also a quick video trailer for issue 1 from animator and cartoonist Matt Sandbrook. Spooky, moody, mysterious… yep, that covers the mood of the piece.