To discuss in detail the twisting, turning narrative of Black Crown’s Lodger (now collected in this trade paperback volume) would be to miss the point of a book that asks its audience to slowly put together the puzzle pieces of its timeframe-jumping storyline. It’s a tale that reveals in increments over five chapters the mystery at its heart, rationing the answers until it’s ready to pull its teasing plot threads together. Written by David and Maria Lapham, and illustrated by David Lapham, this modern noir keeps us guessing right up until its climactic and yet somehow almost understated finale.
Billed as a cat-and-mouse story the key question in Lodger is perhaps who is really the cat and who is the mouse? Three years after the events that devastated her life, a revenge-seeking young woman named Ricky Toledo pursues the handsome traveller who stayed briefly with her family during that time, and whose visit had horrific repercussions. The object of her hunt is a travel blogger called “Lodger” who writes about the minutiae of smalltown America while simultaneously selecting new victims for his serial killing exploits. Accompanied by her constant companion – a gun named Golddigger – Ricky closes in on her target. As the past and the present slip in and out of each other and brutal revelations come to the fore, a truly bizarre love story is slowly uncovered.
Setting is as vital in building up the sense of tension in Lodger as characterisation. Throughout, there’s a feeling of constant oppressive heat that seems to soak into each and every panel. But it’s also the physical environment that the characters move through that serves to echo the book’s near nihilistic swagger; smalltown microcosms where the line between close-knit community and stifling claustrophobia is a faint and indistinct one. Presentation echoes theme as story shards begin to fit together in a layered book that rewards re-reading, while the parallel narratives of Lodger’s blog commentary and our own observations of the characters interweave; sometimes contradictory and skewed in their perspectives but each with their own inherent truths to be unpacked.
Lapham’s crisp, clean and yet fluid art transitions between the drama of densely packed, moody set pieces and close-ups, and sudden, open moments of destructive energy. It’s a marriage of unlikely partners; the subtle and the kinetic working in perfect visual harmony with his black and white art reflecting the stark, uncompromising nature of the tale. Black Crown (alongside Berger Books at Dark Horse) continue to put out some of the very best serial comics in the current marketplace. This unrelentingly grim and fatalistic thriller is a perfect self-contained starting point for those yet to sample the Black Crown line.
David and Maria Lapham (W), David Lapham (A) • IDW Publishing/Black Crown, $17.99
Review by Andy Oliver