Composer: John Vallely
Writer: Jordan Thomas
Artist: Clark Bint
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A trans-media psychological thriller about a young man's return from WWI to find his family's farm abandoned, except for the property's unsettling livestock. This version of the story features an immersive score to accompany your reading experience and heighten the tension.
Frank at Home on the Farm is a combination of The Shining, the eeriest moments of the Rod Serling era of the Twilight Zone and Pink Floyd's The Wall.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
(Major Spoilers for Earlier Issues!)
Returning from the trenches of WWI, Frank arrives at his family's farm longing for the loving embrace of his mother, father, and younger brother only to find the farm abandoned. All that remains are an assortment of eerie farm animals, leaving Frank alone at night to cope with the terrifying nightmares of his time on the battlefield.
Despite his best efforts, Frank cannot find his family, but soon discovers he is not as alone as he thought. Seemingly ethereal voices begin talking about him, footsteps echo around the farm and inside his house culminating in the revelation that it was the livestock all along. These animals, headed up by the pig and cow respectively, have sentience and want to persuade Frank to their side of an impending conflict among the animals.
Has Frank truly lost his mind? And will he ever uncover the truth behind his family's disappearance?
Jordan Thomas is remarkable at constructing a subtle psychological thriller. Everything feels just a bit off when we first see Frank, and his gradual decline as the story ramps up the intensity is a testament to Thomas's chops as a writer.
Clark Bint's pages have a dreamlike quality to them where the farm scenes and animals all look believable, but when the story shifts in tone, these same environments and characters take on a nightmarish quality. That's a tough line for an artist to walk, but Bint makes it look easy.
LetterSquids once again shines, delivering pitch-perfect word balloons and sound effects that match the needs of any given scene. There's a visceral quality to LetterSquids' font choice during the second half of the story where you can feel Frank unravel mentally.
John Vallely's score is a perfect fit for the narrative. His tracks with the early scenes have a whimsical quality to them, but still feel ominous, like we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Later, his tracks carry drum beats for the war flashbacks and ramp in intensity as Frank becomes more unhinged. The variety of tones Vallely conveys is impressive and is easily the MVP of this trans-media venture.
The use of anthropomorphic animals during the war sequences was an effective choice in making the violence in those moments stand out from other depictions of PTSD flashbacks.
Frank's character arc is tragic, but a satisfying narrative. He's a sympathetic lead we want to see overcome his inner demons even though deep down we have a feeling this won't end well for him.
The final confrontation between Frank, the pig, and the police officer is an intense payoff to the simmering tension the story's built to.
Another strength of this version of the story is the use of selective pans, zooms, and scene transitions to give moments like the two-page spread near the opening a sense of scale that couldn't be replicated on a printed page. These techniques also allow for the reader to be surprised by panels on a given page instead of immediately seeing everything with a given page flip.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This book contains graphic violence against people and animals and disturbing imagery.
The epilogue over-explains some of the circumstances around Frank's mental state. The answers were well-thought-out but, given the nature of this story, some answers are better off left to the reader's imagination.
One of the trade-offs to watching a video of a comic is having to set a singular pace for the story. One of comics' unique strengths lies in the reader's ability to control the pace of a story, spending as long or little on any given page.
Some of the pans from left to right of a panel include several wide panels in the frame, forcing you to absorb the panels in unison instead of one at a time.
There are a couple of moments where the video zooms in from a splash page and focuses on a background element of the art rather than the focal point of a panel. For example, during a big splash page showing the animals inside the barn, the focal point of the page is the pig but the video zooms past him and onto another creature in the background.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
As a comic, Frank at Home on the Farm is an incredible psychological thriller with fantastic visuals from Clark Bint and deliberate slow-burn storytelling that boils over into a visceral finale. And between Mugshots and Frank at Home on the Farm, Jordan Thomas has effectively put the whole comics industry on notice as one of the next must-watch talents.
As for the trans-media elements, if you're looking to experiment with a different comics format, then this version is a great place to start. The score from composer John Vallely is pitch-perfect for the slow-burn nature of the series, building up in intensity as the story progresses and keeping you glued to the screen throughout. And, despite a couple of instances (panel transitions lingering too long or going too fast to soak in the dialogue), the times where it does work more than make up for those stumbles, delivering many surprises that wouldn't have been possible on a standard comic page.
Regardless of the format you choose, Frank at Home on the Farm stands out as a must-read comic.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Mugshots by Jordan Thomas and Chris Matthews
Instrumental by Dave Chisholm
Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram
If you like the art:
Killtopia Vol. 3 by Dave Cook and Clark Bint
Underwater Welder By Jeff Lemire
Harrow County Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Jordan Thomas (@Jordan_J_Thomas) – Writer
Outlander: Jordan currently resides in Spain.
On the Rise: Frank at Home on the Farm is being published by Scout Comics.
Clark Bint (@clarkbintart) – Artist
Outlander: Clark hails from Oxford, UK.
Multitalented: Clark has also worked as a concept artist, provided game assets and promotional art.
Lettersquids (@LetterSquids) – Letterer
Prolific: Lettersquids has worked for numerous publishers including Scout Comics, Source Point Press, Action Lab, and Insight Comics.
Multitalented: Lettersquids is also skilled in book & logo design and print production.
John Vallely (@VallelyComposer) – Composer
Outlander: John currently resides in the southern end of Spain.
Multitalented: John is proficient with multiple instruments including guitar, drums and bass.
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