House Amok #1 Review: An Interesting Clue-Filled Story, but More Tell than Show

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Dylan and Ollie Sandifer are close twins in a happy family. They're parents are still together, and they have a grumpy older teenage brother. We join the Sandifer's in the process of kidnapping a gas station attendant. We then go back to the beginning of their summer and the incident that has led them onto a cross-country trip in a bus retrofitted to be an RV.

House Amok #1 cover by Shawn McManus
House Amok #1 cover by Shawn McManus

House Amok #1 is a comic book that plays keep-away with its story. This first issue drip-feeds parts of parts of its plot. You learn the relationship between Dylan and Ollie, that they're looking for something in people, and that this may have something to do with other-dimensional invaders.

This storytelling tactic isn't inherently bad so long as you give the reader something to grab on to, and House Amok comes close to doing that. The relationship between Ollie and Dylan is the focus of this first issue. Dylan is the narrator and gives us the various details of her and Ollie's friendship as fraternal twins.

Where the problem arises is that it's all tell and no show. The relationship between Ollie and Dylan is explained to us directly by Dylan instead of shown to us through the story. We receive more organic interaction between the parents than Ollie and Dylan. That's not bad either; the parents are weird and interesting figures.

I suspect on some level that the telling instead of showing about Ollie is intentional, but that doesn't quite excuse the damage the practice does to this comic. It gets incredibly dull. There are strange and interesting things sprinkled throughout the book to break up the endless narrative explanation, but there aren't enough moments like that.

Also, Dylan talks very much like an adult. Again, this may be intentional for some reason, but it is distracting.

Also, I get weird reminiscent vibes of Little Miss Sunshine with this book. Maybe that's just me.

House Amok #1 art by Shawn McManus
House Amok #1 art by Shawn McManus

I'm quite fond of Shawn McManus's artwork though. It has a deceiving innocence to it, especially in how it portrays the twins. This is offset by moments of surprising violence or appearances by horrific creatures. The color palette of Lee Loughridge is often quite plain and balanced by those shock moments too. It gels with the narrative very well.

House Amok #1 is a strange and intriguing addition to the Black Crown lineup. Christopher Sebela is putting together a surrealist family drama with breadcrumb hints as to what is going on. I want to know the mystery of it all, but I can't stay engaged if #2 is as droll and expansive with the narration, telling far more than showing, like this one. I can tentatively recommend it because there are a lot of peculiar and intriguing things going on, and the character relationships have been well built and have the potential to be interesting. Just be prepared for a lot of dry narration.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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