Writer: Carnby Kim (@carnbykim – Instagram)
Illustrator: Youngchan Hwang
Publisher: WebToon (@Webtoon)
WHAT IS IT?
When an apocalyptic event occurs, the tenants of an apartment complex must fight their way to freedom floor-by-floor. Sweet Home is a psychological thriller webtoon* about the deep flaws of humanity and how they are heightened when trapped inside your home.
Think High-Rise meets # Alive or The Mist.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When a tragic accident claims the lives of Hyun Cha’s family, the reclusive high schooler is forced to leave his home and move into an isolated apartment complex alone. With his nihilism and loss of will growing by the day, Hyun discovers that his hopelessness is the least of his worries as hideous humanoid creatures begin to wreak havoc on his complex. As humanity succumbs to “monsterization,” the lucky few who live to witness it happen must band together to make it out alive.
As the tenants try to make sense of the madness, the facades of kindness and teamwork begin to crumble and true personalities come to light. Infighting and politics threaten to cause more damage than the un-killable forces that pour out into the halls and stairwells from the neighboring apartments. The only chance for survival is escape, but making it through the infested building to do so may prove to be too much. The end of the world is upon us and there truly is no place like home.
Kim is a phenomenal writer with a firm grasp on what makes a thriller compelling. The lack of hope and sense of dread that is conveyed in the narrative is honest in a way that makes the discomfort of the situation realistic. Every conversation is soaked with panic and the deep look into morals and impact of hidden desires creates a unique and enthralling collapse of humanity.
With an iconic style that is now synonymous with an aesthetic of tension and dread, Hwang’s artwork is the shining star of this series. The absolutely nausea-inducing designs of the monsters, the massive setting of the apartment complex, and the large cast of unique characters are illustrated in a manner that will make you hold your breath alongside the unlucky survivors.
The webtoon is soaked in a warm haze of colors, everything feels as if it is coated with a worried hue of a dying sun that adds to the terror of what comes when the light goes out. Opposite of that, the flashbacks are shown in muted blue-leaning tones that feel distant and cold. The color palette choices enhance the mood of the scene while also making the timing of the moment clear.
The story is a masterclass in slow-building, suspenseful horror. The use of repeated panels with only the slightest of movements or zooms, enhanced with shifting sound effects, add to the sense of dread and anticipation for whatever twisted moment is coming next in a highly cinematic way.
The lettering is a major part of what makes this series so compelling. The speech bubbles are clean and easy to read while the sound effects are creepy without being distracting. Perhaps the most notable are the monsters’ speech bubbles. They are chaotic, red and black with stark white font and eerie pauses between words to capture that not-quite-human, “something is wrong here” sensation. It sends chills down your spine when they speak.
It almost plays out like a season of 24, as the days after the world-altering event occurs take numerous chapters to unfold. This adds to the distress and direness of the narrative when you realize that so much has happened in such a short amount of time.
The transformations of humans into the mutated creatures is jarring, the almost Attack on Titan-like exaggerated features are grotesque and border the uncanny valley in ways that will make your skin crawl (akin to a Junji Ito creation). They are still quite obviously human but the unease of how wrong they look leaves you feeling distressed and disgusted.
The apartment complex and its outer perimeter being used as the only location for every chapter creates a claustrophobic sensation and almost turns the building itself into a character. The tight stairwells and unknown of what lies in the next unit over adds to the tension and the building lends itself to the chaotic fight sequences later on in the series.
Hyun’s arc from reclusive loner to reluctant hero is moving and emotional. The struggle of his innate desire to be more than a hopeless loser as he wrestles with his own anxieties and lack of self-worth opens the door for an epic hero’s journey.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Intense violence and gore, body horror, strong language, conversations/thoughts of suicide, use of alcohol and cigarettes. Suggested for mature audiences.
Each chapter starts with a short recap, usually the last few panels of the previous chapter, which can be a bit tedious and redundant when you’re bingeing.
The cast is (initially) quite large and introductions are quick, so it can be a bit confusing coming back to a character several chapters later and trying to remember who is who/what everyone’s relationships are.
Though the series is called Sweet Home, the Webtoon translation lists the title as Home Sweet Home. It is unclear why this is, but it can be a bit deceiving for first-time readers who attempt to search for the title based on the English translation covers.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The second collaboration of Carnby Kim and Youngchan Hwang, Sweet Home is a slow-building, captivating, and harrowing series that delves into the emotional toil of being human over the course of 140 lengthy chapters. With its dismal plot and anxiety-inducing illustrations, the reluctant heroes and their journey to freedom is compelling and unintentionally timely. Watching a cast of typical, ordinary people come to terms with the possible end of the world while being trapped inside of their home drums up a sense of realistic dread that balances fact and fiction perfectly.
Sweet Home’s fanbase on the WebToon app leaves it as one of the most loved webtoons in recent memory. After the raging success of the duo’s previous series, fans immediately fell in love with the cast of Sweet Home and applauded its unique take on an end-of-the-world event. With Kim’s reputation for spine-chilling thrillers, Hwang’s subdued melancholic art, and the release of the Netflix adaptation, the series saw an increase of global fans and has garnered over 1.2 billion reads.
With its horribly suffocating setting and slow pacing, the sensation of hopelessness is gripping throughout the entirety of the series. The large cast of characters each bring their own unique perspectives to the frightening situation which makes it relatable to pretty much any reader who dares to delve into its horror. Sweet Home appeals to drama, thriller, and horror fanatics alike as the emotionally gripping story and jaw-dropping moments of suspense make this one of the must-read webtoons on the internet today.
HOW DO I READ IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Carnby Kim/Youngchan Hwang characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Carnby Kim/Youngchan Hwang or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
*Webtoon - term for digital comics that originated in Korea, created specifically for scrolling on mobile devices