Mad Robot Comics has produced some deliciously sadistic comics in their time. In-between sending their flagship anthology, Cadavers, to hell in a hand-basket with Cadavers: World Gone To Hell and more recently charging Kickstarter with #1 of the superhero vengeance tale Bete Noir, Mad Robot Comics released the comparatively understated Frank At Home On The Farm. With #2 currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, and creator Jordan Thomas now pursuing a self-publishing route for the comic, #1 of this creepy rural horror tale is an unnerving affair whose mixture of tense, vulnerable art and displaced protagonist make for an effective debut.
Frank At Home On The Farm #1 wears it Stephen King influences heavily on its sleeve. It’s a very methodically paced issue, with a great deal of emphasis on letting the visuals craft the uneasy mood throughout the comic. This isn’t just in Clark Bint‘s artwork, but how the art itself is executed. Page layouts and panels alike are injected with mystery and suspense, as Jordan Thomas‘ tale of this World War 1 solider returning home to a deserted farm ensnares the reader with its bubbling sense of menace.
Frank’s exploration of his seemingly abandoned home gives way to several pages full of near panel-less art that displays his farmyard home in full. The eerie emptiness of his home taps into that age-old trick of the trade when writing horror: that of paranoid defencelessness, as if someone or something could leap out at any second. The rising tide of things not feeling quite right is where Frank At Home On The Farm #1 is at its most muscular. Thomas’ laid-back story-telling can’t help but be somewhat overshadowed by the enjoyably creative panel structure and warped artwork. That establishing double-page spread in the comic’s beginning of Frank standing atop of a hill, gazing down at his home farm, with morose rain-clouds hovering over the farmyard, blocking out the sunlight, distinguishes the dangers he’s about to face. It’s wonderfully effective.
The story of #1 itself matches that creeping paranoia, but it comes off as a little lacklustre in comparison to the hypnotic artwork. Frank’s exploration of his farm and neighbouring village is all that occurs, yet scattered throughout the narrative are numerous handsome signs of the drama yet to unfold. The village’s residents claiming to have never heard of his family is a wonderfully freakish touch that adds to the psychological turmoil that Frank At Home On The Farm promises to eventually revel in future issues. As Frank’s journeying into the village continues, trying to find an answer, it becomes clear that the animals of the village are acting out of place, as well as the humans. Thomas integrates a quaintly British identity into the comic, with its post-World War 1 setting and rural landscapes, adding a rustically perilous flavour.
Even with this emphasis on art over story, #1 of Frank At Home On The Farm does exactly what it needs to do. It effortlessly establishes the tone the rest of the series is sure to follow. With Frank now ensconced in his abandoned home, unaware of what’s become of his family and oblivious of what’s yet to come, the stage is set for an enjoyably horrific saga to unfold that’s drenched in paranoia. #2 of this very British tale of postwar horror, now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, will surely deliver further freakish tumblings down this particular rabbit hole of terror.
Will you be risking your life with the farmyard animals with Frank At Home On The Farm? Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a Tweet! You can also check out our past interviews with Jordan, Clark and editor Matt Hardy about the making of the comic.