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Croak (review) or, “Look ahead only the future matters”

Writer: Cory Andrew Sousa

Artists: Francesco Iaquinta, Chris O’Halloran

Designer: Dezi Sienty

Alterna Comics, 2017

IF YOU HOLD MY HAND I can take you to the spot where I found the camera. There is probably nothing there to see. The camera, though. You should look at that.

On screen, before a silhouette shudders from the shadows, a faint sound scuffles in the blackness, a croak. Too late. Your friend is gone.

Critical conflicts run over one another in this three-issue thriller by writer Cory Andrew Sousa and artist Francesco Iaquinta. They draw me in from the first in the car headed toward the mountains to camp with three friends, two boys and one girl bantering and bickering along the way. The colors by Chris O’Halloran purposely smother the scene as night falls and car lights beam on a lonely road through the woods; and in the trek to the campsite lit only by starlight flickering above a canopy of trees, the greenery merges in the shadows, and eventually we are thoroughly lost; but hey, right here looks fine, build a campfire, tell a ghost story, be happy with adventure. Woo hoo.

The moment I saw the girl Aubrey stand keenly alert, legs skewed for flight after hearing a croak, I realized something was wrong. The edge of fright is palpable, evidently drawn from depths of personal fear stamped somewhere in the body from real experience one can rub one’s finger over, pulsing; and the effect of relief too in those moments when relief is allowed, sobbing to catch your breath as when the pages spread open in a panorama of a farmhouse in a meadow where security surely beckons, unless of course, this is the source, the lair where it all ends on a high throne with a bestial beauty reclined and sated in gore.

Croak #3 [2017] - Westfield Comics

Oh, perish the thought. Call for help. Or keep running. The newsreel illustration here soaked in ink has a throbbing quality that shifts into focus in brief dramatic moments as when Aubrey runs for her life, or encounters the farmhouse, or in the small panel when she observes the armored knee joint of her pursuer, what kind of creature is that? or is it a creature? These sweeping winds glued me to the page. I believe gratitude is due to Dezi Sienty, the designer responsible for this brisk package.

I always wanted to find love, community, a circle like we had when we were young growing together before our bad qualities indelibly marked us apart. For a time in youth it might be possible to imagine in one’s formlessness that unity and diversity come easy, just illuminate and talk sense, yet often even one exchange with another, back and forth, is difficult to achieve. You do not listen to me or respect what I say, and I barely understand you. You think I am a crank, a crackpot, a creep; or as Aubrey recalls as she runs full-speed toward us frame by frame, “Growing up my brothers would torment me as much as they could. They’d chase me, and I knew if I ever looked back, they’d get me.”

Run forward as fast as you can. However many exchanges you manage with those around you, Aubrey exhibits in blue jeans and sneakers how frightened you should be right now in the state of the world. Run, fool, run, yet decide quick what direction saves you. As in chess or any game to survive, the past is irrelevant. Only the future matters. Make it happen now.

Maybe the main message in this story is how much of our lives we spend getting away from each other, demonstrated by our many suburbs and exurbs, all the high castles of our royal selves. Yet escape is not always available. Sometimes your life depends on defending your different idea of what needs to be done, and you cannot walk away like consumer ideals allow you to do with righteous choice to shop elsewhere. When it matters, righteousness and retreat do not save you. You have to fight with your friends to beg them to make sense.

To complicate matters, however, please note as an exception to every rule of heroism, when someone you care about is dragged away by the shoulders, feet dangling, do not try to save them. In some cases, according to current safety recommendations, you should absolutely not follow the victim. Just run.