Chapter Two of “The Squidder” is even creepier and more engaging than its predecessor. Ben Templesmith’s Lovecraftian nightmare has a fine script, but it’s ultimately the artwork that makes it so eerie and entirely unsettling. With a terrifying world to explore and two strongly rendered protagonists, “The Squidder” is a series to watch.
In creating this vision of the future, Templesmith somehow makes the reader believe in anything. Ideas that are B-movie laughable in principle — squid tentacle horns, squid tentacle hands — are drawn with such spindly, sinister polish that the ridiculousness doesn’t register at all. When drawing the otherworldly villains, he’s not concerned with implementing an easy-to-follow physical logic, and pieces of characters are allowed to simply trail off or curl away into the ether. The art follows the logic of the story; this is a sundered universe where the laws of physics have been broken and worlds merged, and Templesmith puts that into practice with his scenes. It’s a great illustration of what comics can do that other mediums can’t.
Part of what makes this effect possible is the coloring. There is almost no physical detail to this world; instead, the colors seem to signal emotional or thematic states. Scenes of violence are scarlet; scenes of wandering are icy blue; scenes with the Squid are a hellish mix of red, yellow and green. The background colors subsume everything, and characters are often merely illuminated spots in the swirl of colors. It makes for fascinating fight scenes.
(That said, I do have to add that I much prefer the colors in the digital version for this issue. I didn’t notice much difference between the formats in issue #1, but here I did.)
In issue #1, I felt I spent too much time inside the Squidder’s head. Templesmith didn’t write anything dull, but the grizzled war machine shtick is not inventive, and I found myself wishing he narrated less. In issue #2, though, the Squidder is given someone to play off of, and the story drags much less as a result. The priestess he’s been sent to retrieve is spirited and smart, and she cuts through his simple, angry worldview with some much-needed complication. Admittedly, some her retorts read as obvious armchair psychology, but I appreciate that she sticks up for herself instead of apologizing or internalizing that self-hate. I also can’t remember the last time that I read a prophecy delivered with sass instead of mystic vagueness.
In general, “The Squidder” is heading further away from its protagonist’s head, and that’s smart for the series’ future. For instance, in this issue the reader sees the Squid in their home base for the first time, and the “projects” they work on are skin-crawling. That disturbing bit of worldbuilding stayed with me much longer than the Squidder’s tragic past. The plot has also been set up for them to visit the priestess’ temple of rebels, and I’m excited to see what that looks like.
I’m definitely picking up “The Squidder” #3. If you haven’t read the first two, I’d recommend jumping on board.