Review: Treehouse #4

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The Treehouse gang are back with their fourth instalment, featuring a variety of stories that take a look at the darker side of life. As someone who routinely has to cover his eyes at The Walking Dead and ask his wife to describe the action, I was curious whether an issue with a darker focus would be to my taste. It’s true that this unifying theme contrasts with the eclectic contents of the previous issue, but what is impressive is how the creators manage to incorporate a variety of styles and tone into their contributions while still adhering to the central concept.

Issue 4 sees the arrival of a new member of the team, Jon Adam, as well as contributions from Jo Helfer, Norrie Millar, David Robertson, Neil Scott, Avril Smart and Ali Smith. Characterising this as the ‘horror issue’ would be doing it a disservice as its contents are more nuanced than that. Instead of gratuitous blood and gore there is a focus on darker situations, whether the everyday, the fantastic or the psychological. So, what goodies await in this issue? The contents include a disturbing focus on germination, encounters with spirits and supernatural forces, exploration into strange realms, early morning misadventures and the fear of being alone.

One of the advantages that anthologies such as this possess is their ability to mix light and shade. The issue’s opening of ‘Spore’ by Jon Adam is genuinely unsettling, but is followed by an entertaining one-pager by Avril Smart that features an indignant Ghost of Christmas Past. I must admit that Ali Smith’s contribution ‘Neb: Journey to the arse end of the world’, left me unsure whether it was the work of a genius or a madman. It’s entirely possible that both apply, as our hero takes a trip to a very literal end of the world.

David Robertson’s contribution, ‘Things to do at 3 o’clock in the morning’, returns the reader to the everyday, focusing on the chain of events that can lead to poor choices in the wee hours. The use of shadows in this strip is particularly effective, helping give credence to the escalating tensions of the protagonists. Norrie Millar’s offering features a point of view character who is just looking for romance. This deceptively quiet opening masks a tale of dark obsession, leading to a final panel reveal that brings to mind classic EC tales of horror and their ability to present the rest of the story in a new light.

Neil Scott was responsible for one of my favourite stories in issue 3, with his bird/crocodile travelogue. His latest effort, ‘Eleanor Lost’, is another standout, taking the simple premise of a child lost in the woods and exploring how a child might deal with such a trauma. Eleanor’s protectors are well realised with their actions perfectly filtered through a child’s imagination and preconceptions, such as Claws Eastwood’s skill with his gun.

The closing story, Joanna Helfer’s ‘White Noise’, is a take on the concept of isolation and communication with beyond, utilising the horror movie favourite of a small cast in an isolated location. The strip leaves things on an uncertain note, one that seems appropriate given the issue’s theme and rounds off the issue nicely.

In short, issue 4 of Treehouse is another winner. If you think treehouse related horror is the sole province of a certain yellow tinged family, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover within its pages.

More information about the work of the Treehouse crew can be found here.

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