Scout Comics’ It Eats What Feeds It, written by Max Hoven and Aaron Crow, and illustrated by Gabriel Iumazark, tells a story that’s simple yet haunting. The story takes place in the Louisiana swamps. The dingy feeling and the fog in the air makes it feel like danger is around every corner. We follow Kenny, a young high school graduate who is responding to a want ad in the bayou. In a large, spooky house, the seductive Francois waits. She simply needs Kenny around to keep the place clean, keep her company, and ignore the blood splatters in the kitchen.
Hoven and Crow are building a world of characters from scratch. It’s natural to have a little bit of over-explaining, and some heavy exposition here and there. But somehow, Hoven and Crow dodge this pitfall and dive right into the story. Sure, Kenny isn’t exactly subtle. At one point he’s jumping on his bed saying “She wants me… she wants me hard!” But he’s a horny high school graduate, so the tone of his dialogue works perfectly. Hoven and Crow understand the character they’re writing. They know that if they dangle sex in Kenny’s face, they can then throw in as many red flags into the writing as they want. And so, the reader is warned with every page that something sinister is going on, while Kenny settles deeper and deeper into his dream life. This makes the tone of the comic both spooky and seductive at the same time. You’re lured into the beauty of the world they’ve created, despite that fact they’re screaming at you to run.
Iumazark, in a way, takes on the role of Francois in this creative process. It’s his job to seduce us into the house, get us sitting comfortably and then scare the shit out of us. And Iumazark does it well. For one thing, much of the art seems to have a haze over it. Since this comic takes place in the Louisiana bayou, the foggy feel in the air is fitting. It’s like you can’t fully see what’s going on. It’s not clear. Iumazark is constantly shying away from detail. His minimalist approach often looks like a picture half-drawn. This brings everything into question. Are we really seeing what’s going on, or is this in Kenny’s head? It’s the uncertainty that becomes the most terrifying factor of the story. The very feeling that there is something between you and a clear picture creates a sense of panic.
Iumazark’s coloring is where the balance of dread and seduction comes in. Somehow, scenes that are cast in a “golden days” kind of glow, don’t seem all that different from washed out scenes that suggest a coming doom. We do notice all the differences, but they’re subtle. The tinges of grey and yellow are replaced by a hint of green. But the changes are so subtle that we almost want to convince ourselves they aren’t there. Early on in the story, as Kenny first meets Francois in her dimly lit house, Iumazark’s color scheme manages to be both tempting and ominous at the same time. The dark room should feel scary, but the woman in the red dress makes it feel intimate instead. Maybe even sexual. It’s once Kenny discovers the blood and bones in the kitchen that Francois’ red dress begins to represent both sex and death. Kenny doesn’t seem to bothered once he realizes he might have a chance with Francois.
Iumazark’s letters seem out of place at first. The sharp edges of the square word balloons clash with the soft shapes of his pencilling. But something about it kind of works. The orderly, clean letters floating above a dark and messy world. It casts more doubt over the atmosphere. Doubt that things are alright, that things are as they seem. And Iumazark’s sound effects are always a tease. The garbled “Wheck! Whreeck! Wreeck!” flying out of the window in panicked letters is just Kenny jumping on his bed. Screams that echo through the halls are cries for attention, not cries of death. And so the lettering of this story is always convincing us it’s something that it’s not. Scary looking sound effects are actually associated with innocuous acts. Tidy word balloons hide the sinister intent of the words themselves.
It Eats What Feeds It, from Scout Comics, is a seemingly simple series. But the work Hoven, Crow and Iumazark have put in is anything but simple. We have none of the insecurities one often sees with creators introducing us to a new world. Instead, this creative team is confident. And with a story like this, they should be. It Eats What Feeds It #1 is out from Scout Comics July 8th!