Ben Templesmith’s The Squidder is a visually stunning yet narratively stunted graphic novel. Templesmith, an Australian comic artist, is perhaps best known for 30 Days of Night, and the Squidder follows that particular vein of horror in its style. Which is not to say that it’s all that similar to 30 Days of Night – there are fair fewer zombies and a chunk more colour – rather that the Squidder is clearly an offshoot from the same mind.
Templesmith’s artwork is grossly beautiful. It is messy, dark and enthralling. The images are visceral, the monsters horrific, and the world is post apocalyptic. Jack is a squidder, a genetically modified solider designed to fight the alien invasion in the final days of a war humanity lost. The aliens are trans-dimensional beings, suckers of energy in the shape of giant squids, monsters in the Lovecraft tradition. Jack works as a gun for hire, and when he takes a job returning Seph, a kidnapped squid priestess, his merger existence is thrown against greater forces.
The Squidder doesn’t bring much new to its genre. The characters are tropes; the sarcastic merc and the gentle but secretly badass priestess are predictable, as is the general arc of the story itself. Jack turns out to be the saviour, there is some sex that looks more like body horror, and the whole thing invokes a vague feeling of déjà vu. Despite the art doing much of the heavy lifting, it often gets in the way of the text boxes themselves, which are printed in a scratchy hand written font that is difficult to read.
To Templesmith’s credit, the Squidder still manages to end on a reasonably poignant note; an otherwise generic beat made splendid by fantastic drawing.
The Squidder is available from IDW Publishing, both online and in stores as a hardback and a paperback.