Written by: Ben Templesmith
Art by: Ben Templesmith
Published by: IDW Publishing
“The Squidder #1” is an enigma. It’s at times a violent romp through a dreary post-apocalyptic (post-squid) world. It’s also a story that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It wears its influences on its sleeve but doesn’t do much to sell the main character. Your interest in this series is very much contingent on your appreciation for science-fiction/horror inspired by the great H.P. Lovecraft. Ben Templesmith brings his trademark art style to a title that dwells in a dark, messy, and violent world that suits him like a tailored Italian shoe. The tone and atmosphere effectively set the stage for a bleak world where there’s very little happiness and even less hope.
When the story-telling and art is clear, “The Squidder #1” is entertaining enough. Its violent story of revenge doesn’t exactly feature a complex character or thought-provoking plot but Templesmith makes slicing and dicing look pretty awesome. Sometimes the art devolves into jumbles that make it tough to see what’s going on but for the most part the action is easy to follow. Templesmith’s ability to set the stage with his colour selection is his greatest artistic strength this issue. There is no mistaking this book as a different artist’s nor does he leave you thinking that there is anyone better suited to creating the look of this series.
With his writing it is clear that Templesmith is a bit out of his depth. The narration tries too hard to sound gritty and epic but comes off feeling cookie-cutter simple. At one point this is even addressed by the main character but instead of seeming like we’ve been let in on a secret, it feels like we’re being cheated. We’re teased with some sort of squid worshiping suicide cult in the opening few pages but there’s a missed opportunity in not coherently tying those events to the main plot. The strong Lovecraftian influence of those opening scenes were tense and a worthy homage to the great author but the story shifts too quickly to a revenge/tired war veteran tale too quickly. The squids will no doubt show up later in this mini but as a debut this issue needed to really engage the reader and not using the best part of this installment is a significant stumble.
These “I have nothing to live for” stories frequent pop-culture but so many of them fail to capture the pathos necessary to tell an effective story with compelling characters. They take for granted that action looks great or cool premises drive sales but they fail to recognize that without a likable character the story will be forgotten. The one-dimensional character work in this debut doesn’t allow readers to latch onto the personal plight of the quasi-hero. The only reason this weakness gets a bit of a pass is because this is a four-issue limited series. That means there’s limited room for Templesmith to improve his characterization but it also makes the character a less important factor in carrying the series. Unfortunately, this series may be over before it has a chance to make people remember that it was here in the first place.
Apocalypse stories are a bit worn out these days as well. The Squidder doesn’t do enough to set itself apart in my opinion (an unfortunate ongoing theme). The Lovecraft inspired squid-war that the protagonist is a veteran of is mentioned several times and, ironically, seems a great deal more interesting than the world that has been born from it. That’s not to say that Templesmith won’t delve into more of his world’s history but that this appears to be another missed opportunity.
“The Squidder #1” will definitely find an audience. Templesmith has a following for his mostly stellar artwork, and his strong showing here will move some copies without a doubt. Ultimately though, this series is far from his best work and would have benefited from a bit more polish. The weak story may struggle to keep readers engaged as they fail to find much of anything to connect to or sympathetic qualities within the characters. Is it enough that this comic simply has a cool premise, or does there need to be substantially more meat on the bone? I’d suggest the latter.
“The Squidder #1” earns 6.5 / 10