Review: Four Women
Writer and Artist: Sam Keith
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Naghmeh Zand & Sergio Garcia
Publisher: IDW Comics
‘A pleasant road trip becomes a harrowing tale of survival as four friends are accosted by a pair of brutal predators. Told mainly in the claustrophobic confines of their vehicle, these four women comfort one another and learn more about each other as their ordeal continues, drawing ever closer to its inevitable conclusion.’
In Four Women, IDW have masterfully put together a book that is at once harrowing and perplexing, yet uplifting. The shock experienced by readers is offset only by the clever dual perspective; one, that of the women trapped in a predatory attack, with the second, from the psychologist’s couch during a therapy session of one of the survivors. This allows us to witness the developing horror and to evaluate the internal workings of the women as they react to the attack by a pair of wronguns. This is a perfect example of essential reading mainly down to the fable-esque nature of the escapade, and for the bitter-sweet human story that will, no doubt, sadly strike a chord with some readers out there.
The narrative revolves around the story of a road trip of four friends, relayed by one of the trippers, Donna. It all starts innocently enough but the fact that Donna’s receiving therapy adds a sense of foreboding from the outset. The trip’s turning point is when the ladies’ car breaks down and a passing truck stops ominously a short distance away. With the approach of the two rednecked inhabitants, our four protagonists face the grim realisation that help is not top of the visitors’ agenda. The tension is kept bubbling via the action which unfolds from the perspective of the women in the car. This claustrophobic prison creates an unsettling sense of doom, much like a group of swimmers hanging on for dear life as sharks circle. As the attackers notch up the level of violence, we get get the stomach-lurching feeling that we’re going to witness something that we never want to be near, let alone view. It’s the sheer brutality of what we witness that winds us, but ultimately the power and strength of the women that pulls us back from the brink. I honestly didn’t know whether to feel angry, helpless, proud or relieved by the end of the regaling of events.
Art-wise, the opening sequences took a little getting used to due to skewed perspectives and angled frames. But soon I became accustomed to the style and fully appreciated the sketchy elements to the pencilling. The rougher outlines in places only enhances the nature of the material to come and later provides some blurring or adds a little chaos to the actual horror we see. The lettering too fits this profile with non-traditional speech and narrative boxes employed in places, too. It’s a polished way to present a book that’s anything but polished in its essence. You could say that the artistic team did a proper job of metaphorically picking at the readers’ scabs, leaving us smarting and bleeding at every available turn. A solid approach that’s well worth the experience.
In what I’ve described as a new, golden age of horror, it frightens me that a book like this lands at my feet and leaves a much longer lasting chill than anything else I’ve read in months. The human story within means the horror is all too real and far too close to home just to be another book on the shelf; this is a book for our times and couldn’t be more frighteningly relevant if it tried. The ending is, in some excruciating way, uplifting but don’t expect to get an easy night sleep afterwards. Maybe that was the point…
Skully’s Corner: Why buy this book? In the true spirit of human possibilities, this book reminds us what separates people from the monsters. Expect to stare into the abyss and be rendered horrified at what you see staring back. A bit like me looking in the bathroom mirror this morning. Essential reading!
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Review written by Arun Sharma.
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