Our Graphic Novel of The Month for October is Hannah Eaton’s Blackwood – a period murder mystery with a horror twist from the creator of the acclaimed Naming Monsters (shortlisted for the 2012 Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition and the Graphic Scotland 9th Art Award in 2013).
A pair of murders has occurred 65 years apart, uncanny echoes of each other, in the ancient woods beside Blackwood. Evidence and local lore suggest overtones of ritual or of the occult, but despite thorough police investigations, no charges are made. Peg, in her nineties, and her great-grandson, 11-year-old Mason, hold clues to the town’s secrets, but Peg’s dementia dismisses her as unreliable, and no-one wants to listen to a child.
Meanwhile, the Ealders meet to discuss the town’s ‘problems’, not least the new-age travellers and immigrant families. In a late-night gathering, these menfolk venture into the woods, dance naked around a bonfire and sacrifice a dead dog, in the hopes of preserving their own inviolability and that of the town.
Eaton made a strong impression with her debut and this latest comic proves she is no flash in the frying pan. As with her previous work, there is a level of intricacy and authenticity that helps carry the story. The Weston and Brennan families are given detailed family trees to help guide readers through the timeline of the two murders whilst Eaton develops the characters. Both historical periods are given equal care, woven together in a way that deeply enhances the murder mystery, whilst also building something far more sinister in the disturbing history of Blackwood and those who control it behind the scenes. All the while showing the impact the murders in both periods have had on the Weston and Brennan families, as well as the dangers of being too steeped in tradition and unwilling to accept outsider perspectives.
The art is highly detailed and evokes both time periods perfectly, showing a level of research and care that many reader will appreciate. It is also a style that lends itself to several different tones whether it be gritty murder, or the almost supernatural ambience the story takes at certain times. The Ealders in particular benefit from Eaton’s handiwork, with their ghoulish appearance and behavior made all the more disturbing.
This is another strong showing from Hannah Eaton and perfect for Halloween reading. All fans of horror comics will want to give this a look.
Blackwood by Hannah Eaton is out now from Myriad Editions (9781908434715, p/b, £18.99)
Or support your local bookstore.
For more of our favourite graphic novels, be sure to check out our Staff Picks of 2020.