Trying to summarise an experience like Crawl Hole is a tricky prospect at best. Because that’s exactly what it is – an experience. On the surface, sure, it’s a collection of darkly humorous, surreal short stories from writer Craig Collins and artist Iain Laurie, but when you dig a little deeper, you start to realise that there’s a hell of a lot more going on here.
Containing no less than five different short stories, ranging in length from just a few panels to several pages, Crawl Hole covers a broad range of subject matter. Euthanasia, awkward reunions with exes, moments of existential crisis and, yes, even the legendary Vengabus are all fair game here as Collins and Laurie pull back the curtain on their twisted toy box of weirdness.
SICBA nominated artist Laurie is at his disturbing, downright Lynchian best here as his grotesque, frenetic illustrations take up practically every square inch of page space. There are no arty, minimalistic backdrops here. No sir. If there’s the tiniest sliver of white space, chances are that Laurie has already filled it with a tentacle, or perhaps an entrail. It’s just that kind of book. And his cramped, almost oppressive visual style has perhaps never been more suited to a title than it is here.
However, rather than simple being a series of weirsd stories with gruesome artwork, Crawl Hole is actually an almost shockingly intelligent endeavour. Collins makes sure that ever tale has a point, that every observation has a meaning, and rather than simply shocking the reader with a barrage of surreal weirdness, his tales also impress with their clever observations and subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) metaphor.
Once again, my review comes with a disclaimer – this comic is not going to appeal to everyone. Some people will be put off by the harsh, grotesque nature of Laurie’s artwork. Some people simple won’t ‘get’ Collins’ writing. But there are a lot of people – and I mean a lot – who will find Crawl Hole every bit as gloriously unforgettable as I do.
Overall, Crawl Hole serves as a brief, fleeting glimpse into another world – or rather, a glimpse at our own world viewed through some very, very different eyes. Laurie and Collins did a great job with their previous collaborations Roachwell and Metrodome of creating some punchy, visually appealing characters, but they’ve managed to improve on these titles in literally every conceivable way here, putting together something with a great deal more substance, and a title that is truly deserving of its “Best Comic” SICBA nomination.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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