I've always said that nothing fucks you up quite like family. Apparently, Aussie comic book creator Frank Candiloro agrees with my sentiment.
His latest comic, Thicker than Water, is advertised as "a 40 page horror comic which incorporates tropes from the slasher genre and giving a fairytale spin to them." This seems like a pretty good, though incomplete summary of what this book is about. Mostly, this is a comic about family.
There is both a sweetness and a brutality about this book, and the juxtaposition is, at times, hard to wrap your head around. The art, which is the center of all of Candiloro's books, only adds to this miasma of conflicting sentiments. As you can see from the images accompanying this review, Candiloro's art does not lend itself easily to feelings of joy, sweetness, or tenderness. It is hard to embrace the innocence of childhood when that child is, for all intents and purposes, rendered flat and untouchable by the artist's style.
But it is here that Candiloro proves himself to be more than your average comic book creator. There are panels in this comic that convey a softness, even though they are composed of thick black straight lines and sharp angles. Candiloro has the ability to use what little negative space is left in his panels to help shape the emotional content of his art. Certainly, his style lends itself easily to horror (and there are some truly horrific moments in this comic), but with his deftness of touch, Candiloro is also able to convey moments of real connection, moments that almost caress your heart.
Candiloro writes: "The book's plot centers around a murderous family known as the Kravens, with the youngest son, Gunnar, about to take on the mantle of slasher for the first time. But he begins to doubt his true calling after encountering an innocent little girl and her mother." This is a story about family, first and foremost. It delves into the expectations the previous generation foist upon the current one, and the almost dogma-like command that the son should honor the family and respect his heritage. The book ends with a quote from Jim Morrison which pretty much echos the sentiment I expressed at the beginning of this review. It is an exploration of the nature vs. nurture argument, a tale of rebellion from your own blood destiny.
Thicker than Water is wrapped in style of a fairy tale. To be honest, it took me until almost half way through the book to realize that it was written in rhyme. But the rhythm of the poem is about as off-kilter as Candiloro's art, and the rhyme scheme forces Candiloro to, at times, make some word choices that miss the mark, making the narrative stilted and slightly disappointing. Candiloro's lettering is also a bit off-putting, looking sloppy and dashed-off, which only adds to the sour notes the writing hits from time to time.
Still, while the plot of Thicker than Water itself may not be as inventive as his previous books, specifically The Widowmaker, it tells an old tale in a new way, adding layers of both horror and innocence to the mix. Once again, Caniloro's art is the showpiece of this book. He continues to explore the possibilities of his instantly recognizable style, and it is a treat to watch him as he develops on his journey.