Written by Carmen Maria Machado. Art by Dani. From Hill House and DC Black Label.
Eli and Octavia live in Shudder to Think, Pennsylvania. A former mining town, the ground has been on fire for decades. Most people moved away. Some stayed. Along with the rabbits with human eyes, the deer with human heads, and the skinless men that come out of the smouldering holes in the ground. When Eli and Octavia go to a movie and wake up with their memories gone they go searching for answers. The town is full of secrets. Some people know more than they let on. Others have forgotten. Too many have forgotten. Every issue opens up the town more than the fires below do and answers questions the reader didn’t even know they had.
This series was intense. Full on trigger warning for it. As engrossing and amazing as the story is, bad things happen and happened to characters you will love. The comic plays with relationships, connections, bonds, unspoken attachments and more. There are the aforementioned secrets but also revelations, explanations, and stories that were percolating, waiting for the right moment to surface.
I was immersed in the town. Eli and Octavia’s families, the school, where they hang out, all of it becoming reality thanks to numerous bike rides. I am neither LBGT nor a POC like the main characters and that didn’t matter once. This is a universal story of friendship, love, mystery, pain, and any more would spoil the story. I wanted them to be safe, I wanted them to find happiness. I want them to get an ounce of confidence and get out of that town. But then I look out my window and it’s easy to stay in a small place where the driving employer left long ago and all that’s left are families that don’t know any where else.
I’m also convinced this town also looks the other way instead of confronting the truth over what’s going on.
If you want graphic horror, skip this comic. This is a psychological build. Sure the odd monsters in the town are scary and cause some tense moments. But the humans who are exploiting the town secret for their own benefit are worse than any creature that could be dreamed of.
Highly recommended. I don’t think I’ve read anything from the Hill House label that wasn’t worth buying and re-reading.