Reading Pile: Dwellings #2
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
A second successful Kickstarter brings us the next chapter of Jay Stephens' throwback amalgamation of Harvey and EC horror, and Dwellings #2 certainly delivers. This installment features the story 'Second Tongue' and it's an incredibly engaging 36 pages of horror suspense that puts a lot of mainstream horror to shame. While looking like Richie Rich. I really love this book.
'Second Tongue' follows Dawn, a psychology student investigating a case of Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). An overdose patient was admitted and then released once his speech returned back to normal, but Dawn manages to bump into him as he's leaving the hospital and it turns out he was hiding his newfound accent. As she begins to investigate further, she discovers that there may be a more otherworldly explanation to his changes. This leads her on a horrible path of 'accidental' deaths and a twisting story of demonic possession, child abduction, cults, and the limits of Dawn's sanity.
One aspect that I've mentioned before in various Jay Stephens reviews is his inclusion of fake ads, which are still prominent in this issue. What's a bit different this time is how they're blended in to act as elements of exposition, which is something I don't think I've ever really seen before. It's not vital exposition, but it does have some elements (interviews with hospital staff) that could have been part of the narrative but didn't have to be, so Stephens found a way to include that information in such a way that benefits the overall aesthetic of his experiment.
Besides those elements, there's also some other interesting visual experiments throughout the book that really heighten the storytelling and just make the experience more engaging. There's the simple but effective negative-like effect of the possession flashbacks:
As well as the subtle and consistent 'bad printing' blurring of the demon's true name:
The storytelling and its use of the medium combine beautifully with the sense of homage and styling of the media itself. Stephens uses the innate qualities of vintage comics to create a sort of continual feedback loop, where current sensibilities and the language of comics feeds off the expectations of older printing norms and vice versa. It creates a wonderful blending, which then incorporates the dissonant tone of seeing Harvey style characters psychologically tortured and stabbed to death.
I will never get tired of pushing Jay Stephens' work on all of you, so seriously, you should just give in and go support him and publisher Black Eye Books directly. I truly feel like these should be Eisner winning books but I get the feeling that they may end up getting completely overlooked. Which is a terrible crime, but I'll also just be happy if Stephens can keep these coming out as long as he can because they're a wonderful jolt of energy into the world of horror comics.