I believe I discovered Frontier, the quarterly art and comics monograph series from Youth in Decline, while listening to the podcast Comic Books are Burning in Hell. I got the initial offering for this new series and it didn’t really grab me. I was expecting a short narrative comic, but instead it was more a collection of artwork by Russian illustrator, Uno Moralez. Not that it wasn’t worthwhile, I was just expecting more comics. So, the series fell off my radar.
Until I saw that Emily Carroll recently did an issue (it should be noted that the conceit around the series is that each quarterly issue features a different artist). I recently read Carroll’s collection, Through the Woods, and was blown away by that. So, I decided to get her issue of Frontier along with the previous issue, number 5, from Sam Alden. Am I glad I went back to this well.
Alden’s offering is an excised piece from his longer work, Hollow. It’s a haunting tale revolving around older siblings looking back at their life and working to exorcise the demon that haunted, and still haunts, them – a demon embodied as a whirlpool threatening to suck them beneath the water, if they get too close. There are no easy answers in this short narrative – How real is this horror? What does the whirlpool mean? How come it still haunts them, even at this age? – and I like that, a lot. Discovering that there is more to this story also has me excited. Now I need to track down Hollow.
Now, if Alden’s issue was fantastic (which it was), then Carroll’s issue of Frontier, with a story entitled “Ann by the Bed,” is amazing! Carroll knows what she is doing and is masterful at creating atmosphere in her comics that is unsurpassed by anyone working today – and possibly very, very few who have worked in the medium throughout its many decades. Her story sucked me in and latched onto my brain with a vigor I don’t often experience when reading comics. And that final page had me worried I’d be visited by nightmares after I shut out the light (that is no hyperbole, but thankfully I slept soundly). Carroll is smart enough to understand that it’s not the gore or the surprises that will stick with readers of a horror comic, but the pervasive sense of something bad happening, or about to happen, and she deftly drags you deeper into each of her stories until it wraps itself around you and pulls you under. Carroll’s comics are some of the best I have read in a long time.
And, getting back to the topic at hand, Youth in Decline has just announced subscriptions for next year’s Frontier series, with books from Jillian Tamaki, Anna Deflorian, Becca Tobin, and Michael DeForge forthcoming. That is one helluva lineup. If you like cool comics, you need to get on this now. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.