Art and Story: K. Lynn Smith (@KLynnTweets)
Publisher: Self-published on Patreon
WHAT IS IT?
When a maid begins her new job at The House of Lowther, she quickly realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew as the residents of the building prove themselves to be anything but normal. An enthralling new mystery series with the perfect amount of humor and suspense.
Think Downton Abbey meets A Cure for Wellness, if the residents were all cryptids.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
(Minor Spoilers for chapters one and two)
Sawyer Ellis accepted a job as a maid for a mysterious institution called The House of Lowther. Upon her arrival, she’s made to sign a non-disclosure contract, shown to her room, and given the heavily unwanted duty of handling Corridor C. The residents of the building are there seeking a safe haven and value their privacy. Sawyer is warned to not break that confidentiality.
The list of daily tasks is grueling, as are the hours, but nevertheless, she aims to make the most of her new role. She is told to never make contact with the residents, to do her job diligently, and never dawdle. Most important of all, she is to clean the rooms only when they are empty.
As she goes about her duties, she lingers a moment too long and comes face to face with one of the elusive tenants. With fangs and claws, the monstrous resident is anything but human and his snap reaction sends her running - straight into a crowd of cryptids! The House of Lowther’s secrets have only just begun to unravel themselves and Sawyer realizes she may never untangle herself from its web.
Smith has an uncanny ability to grab hold of a reader’s attention within a few panels and pull them into the narrative with ease. The overall mystery is laid out immediately, drawing you in with a location that is unsettling and eerie, and the secretive staff who refuses to offer the newbie any kindness adds to the sense of unease. The need to know what’s happening within the halls of the house becomes almost overwhelming the moment Sawyer steps foot inside.
The move to black and white really makes Smith’s recognizable art style shine. It adds an old-timey aesthetic to the series which enhances the vintage feeling of the clothing/hairstyles, the building, and its decor. It pops like her previous work, but the removal of color adds to the not-quite-right sensation of the narrative.
The character designs are notable. They have a bygone era aesthetic to their looks, their facial expressions are realistic and emotive, as is the sense of motion they portray. From panel to panel they change expressions and poses, which breathes life into the pages with each movement.
The details in the lettering are exquisite. It is easy to read, the text fills the speech bubbles perfectly and both the words and bubbles are bolded where necessary to show intensity without being overpowering. It allows the artwork to become the main focal piece and adds a seriousness to the tone that matches the secretive nature of story.
The cryptids are phenomenal. There’s a semi-Disney quality to their designs but the creatures are easily recognizable compared to their iconic counterparts and still have that timeless Smith style to their features. Their presence could have easily been stylistically jarring, but somehow blends effortlessly amongst the human characters.
The setting is designed with the care of a main cast member. Heavily patterned rugs and wallpapers, antique-looking furniture pieces, and seemingly never-ending halls make the house itself feel as important as the people within it.
The comic invokes vibes akin to the tales of the house staff of Downton Abbey and similar stories of the same historical setting, where small details like dip pens and old-school water basins showcase a setting rooted in the past. It's a phenomenal era of time to set a story with these themes.
Motion effects are done in a minimalistic manner; lines to show movement or a character turning are thin and done in white so they stand out against the heavier gray tones of the series. It’s effective in relaying what it needs without overshadowing the scene.
A special note must be made for the level of detail put into Sawyer’s contract early on in chapter one. Each line is legible, the legalese and terms are done in a logical sense. It would have been an easy thing to simply scribble through, but it showcases the level of care Smith puts into her work.
Mothman. Need I say more?
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The series is still in its beginning stages. At the current moment, there are no true or outstanding negative notes to be given without nitpicking (i.e. my personal opinion that there's not nearly enough Mothman).
There is a single speech bubble on page 14 of chapter one that is a bit on the small size and is a bit hard to read.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The newest series from award winning comic creator K. Lynn Smith, The House of Lowther is shaping up to be a deeply mysterious and gripping tale. With an environment that feels right at home alongside stories like Shutter Island and A Cure for Wellness, the looming, sterile institution and its elusive, not-so-human residents lend themselves to the eerie vibes and grand mystery unfolding within the house’s walls.
Described by Smith as a story about famous creatures who all have a “crimp in their cryptids”, the sharply illustrated, witty and intriguing tale will easily become an addicting addition to your weekly webcomic lineup. The air of mystery is instantly noticeable and the large cast of characters all elude to rich backstories and personalities just waiting to be revealed. Featuring all of the charm, humor, and lovable characters that Smith has become known for, The House of Lowther has design charms that Disney lovers will appreciate and a story that fans of folklore will get hooked on.
This Patreon exclusive series will typically update on Mondays. Based on your tier level you can receive advanced pages, PDFs, or exclusive print versions of the chapters, which Smith noted will be the only way to received a physical copy (at least for quite some time). The first chapter will be the $10 Patreon reward for the month of February, so now is the perfect time to become a Patron. Chapter two is shaping up to be wild (pun intended), so it is well worth the investment.
HOW DO I READ IT?
(Chapter one and advanced pages of chapter two were given to me for free for reviewing purposes).
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 K. Lynn Smith characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright K. Lynn Smith or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED