In order to build a new world, Ben Templesmith sentences the old world to damnation in the opening pages of “The Squidder” #1. That scene alone has enough disturbing content to fuel an entire issue, but Templesmith is just warming up, breaking a few eggs to get his world started. Writing, drawing, coloring and lettering the issue, Templesmith presents readers with a gripping story that is equal parts supernatural thriller, horror movie and action adventure.
The series’ main character is a grizzled warrior known only as Squidder, a post he once held when the world stood a chance to resist the invasion Cthulhu-esque beings. With nothing to weigh him down or lift him up, our protagonist is only known as what he once was and still is, not a person, but a responsibility. Templesmith takes some time to get to Squidder, first introducing readers to the Squid Queen and the Dark Father as they descend upon a ritual in their honor and a sacrifice in their name. While it could be described as creepy, the artist pushes it into horrific, with raging fire and more than one life being taken by the squid beings.
There is nothing upbeat or happy in this story, as Templesmith takes every post-apocalyptic, dystopian stereotype and mixes them in with a character that is part Arnold Schwarzenegger from “Predator” and part Bruce Willis from “Die Hard,” but entirely original. Jaded and alone, Squidder is a hard-ass, but Templesmith shows the soft underbelly of this character beneath the diamond-hard, cybernetically enhanced exterior. It’s nothing extensive, but it is enough to give readers a chance to connect to the humanity that remains in place. Squidder narrates the story for the readers, but Templesmith economizes Squidder’s internal monologue. The story introduces Squidder after everything has changed. Readers are left to take his word for the events that shaped him and would be smart to buckle in as they join him for the adventure that unfolds in “The Squidder” #1 and beyond.
“The Squidder” #1 swings between red-hot flames and moldy greens that speckle the landscape seen around and behind fires of sacrifice and battle. Templesmith uses splotches and spatters to cover up gore, sully the world and add atmosphere to the post-squid environment. The overall appearance comes up as bleak and worn-out, much like Squidder himself, who continues on because he chooses to. This world is soaked in death, deception and despair, with humanity clinging to the fringe, so very close to giving up. By handling the complete visuals for this story, Templesmith produces only his vision for “The Squidder”#1 and it is a most unsettling vision indeed.