“I planned each chartered course, each careful step along the byway”
Tim Seeley writes some interesting comics, and Chronophage, his new graphic novel published by Humanoids, is one of them. He was lucky enough to get the terrific Ilias Kyriazis to draw it, with letters by Crank! and edits by Rob Levin and Heather Antos. Let’s have a look!
Seeley likes doing straight horror, but he also does some weird horror, as is the case here. He blends some science-fiction elements into the story, and as we know, horror and sci-fi go together like chocolate and peanut butter, so it works quite well. Seeley’s protagonist, Chloe, is a nice character – she’s a single mom who has a decent relationship with her daughter, who’s not quite a screw-up, either. To be fair, Chloe doesn’t have it all together, naturally, but she’s not a terrible person. Seeley writes blue-collar people quite well – his vampire story, Dark Red, had another protagonist on the lower side of the social scale, and he did well with that, too – and he gives us a woman who’s struggling but not hopeless, who has dreams that she might be able to achieve but which she might not, and even if she does achieve them, it won’t change her life too much (she makes her own clothing, which she hopes to sell on-line). Her daughter, Kai, is a typical teen – she catches her boyfriend having sex with his ex, but takes him back; she doesn’t listen to her mother’s advice (and Seeley shows us Chloe not listening to her mother’s advice, which is a nice turn); she does some dumb things but is basically decent. One night, Chloe calls a friend, Lena, on her phone, but before Lena can pick up, there’s a “glitch” – a completely black panel – and then Chloe is staring at her inert phone, wondering why she had it out. She goes into a bar and meets Heath, a pretty and charming Czech dude, with whom she ends up having mind-blowing sex. Later, at home, Chloe is about to take some Alprazolam (for anxiety and depression) when Lena, as a rotting corpse, shows up in her medicine cabinet. Yeah, something weird is up.
The back of the book gives everything away, which is a bit disappointing, because it’s actually kind of interesting how Seeley explains things. If you know any Greek, you can figure out that “chronophage” means something like a “time virus,” and it’s clear that Heath is not exactly what he seems, but in case you haven’t read more about this, I don’t really want to give too much away. Suffice it to say that things get bad for Chloe and Kai, but Seeley does some interesting things with them. The story might be basically a horror story with a sci-fi bent, but as anyone who reads anything in those genres knows, you can do a lot with them, and Seeley knows what he’s doing. Chloe is full of regrets, and she’s trying not to pass those regrets on to her daughter, but she can’t help it sometimes. The book is about coming to terms with your past and your regrets and trying to learn from them. Chloe’s mother is still giving her advice, and she still only heeds some of it, but she’s learning. Kai seems to have it together more than Chloe did at her age, but she still doesn’t listen to Chloe’s advice. Seeley taps into that generational problem – everyone thinks they’re the first person to experience something, and even if someone offers them advice, they think they’ll do it better than that person – and gets at a problem in life, namely, “the road not taken.” Chloe got pregnant at 16, so her entire adult life has been defined by being a mother, and Kai knows that Chloe occasionally resents her because she, Kai, represents Chloe’s stupidity and weakness. The real horror in the book comes from regular things, as Chloe tries to figure out what’s actually important in her life. Her affair with Heath is important, even if he’s not the great guy she thinks he is, because it’s something selfish for her, and everyone needs to be selfish occasionally. Where Seeley twists the knife is when he shows that even a mildly selfish act can turn dark, and it’s well done that he takes that idea to its logical extreme as the book nears its end. There’s plenty of creepiness in the book, but at its heart are human emotions and how we deal with them.
The horror aspects of the book are generally turned over to Kyriazis, who’s certainly up to the task. Kyriazis has such a nice line and a fluid style that I remain stunned that DC or Marvel hasn’t thrown a chunk of money at him, but maybe he doesn’t want to toil in their salt mines, which is fine with me. He gives us excellent corpses, as his attention to detail means we get all the gore, which is a nice contrast to the mundane world in which Chloe lives. Kyriazis designs some creepy monsters, too, which is always nice to see. He has a slightly cartoonish style, so his characters wear their emotions on their sleeves, which works in an emotionally fraught comic like this one, and Chloe’s clothing is nice, too, as it looks like someone who’s talented but is still working with fabric scraps might put together. Kyriazis has to draw quite a lot of sex, too, and he does well with this, as Heath and Chloe don’t have crazy “movie sex” (sex in uncomfortable places or positions that no real person would attempt but which happens all the time in movies) but they do enjoy the fucking. Kyriazis also does some nice “off-register” lines and colors to make some of the horror even weirder, which is a nice touch. I’ve been a fan of Kyriazis’s for some time now, and he has never disappointed. I hope he keeps drawing cool stuff that I want to read!
Chronophage is a keen horror comic with a lot on its mind. There’s plenty of action if that’s your bag, and there’s plenty of emotional resonance if you’re keen on that. It’s a pretty cool comic.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆