I have to admit something: I don’t like black-and-white comics. I can hear all the purists moaning as they read that, but I don’t care. I grew up on Marvel and DC comics in the ’80s and ’90s, and I expect all my comics to be in full color. I feel a little ripped off when I pick up a book and find no color inside, and it takes quite a deal of quality of either story or art (ideally both) to counteract that initial repulsion.
Thusly, I was more than a little saddened when I cracked the cover of The Absence, written and drawn by Martin Stiff, to find myself smack in the middle of yet another black-and-white comic. And not one in which the art particularly satisfied my tastes. Luckily for me, the story came to rise above the art to supply the things I do like in my comics, which are dark themes, creepy atmospheres, and a plot reeking of mystery.
The Absence tells the story of one Marwood Clay, a disfigured veteran of WWII, as he returns to his hometown in the English countryside. As we slowly are introduced to the townspeople, it becomes clear that Marwood’s return is not an altogether welcome one. Meanwhile, the eccentric Dr. Temple, a wealthy ex-British intelligence officer, is commissioning the construction of a mysterious building on the town’s outer limits. Then people begin disappearing. Why do the townspeople hate Marwood Clay? What is Dr. Temple building? Is it possible the two things are related? The plot gets wilder and more convoluted as the story builds to a compelling climax.
In the end, while not completely to my tastes, The Absence proves a worthwhile read for lovers of the dark and creepy.