By Josh Simmons
There’s a breaking point in Josh Simmons’ House—a moment when it become gratingly clear that things are only going to get worse. Not slasher film worse—there’s still a chunk of book left, so there’ll be no swift, gory end to these proceedings. Our story’s long close is a slow, painful burn—one that never fully gives up hope, making it all the more difficult to endure to the bitter end.
It’s a slip and a crash, and, once the dust clears, a body twisting injury—one that, given the happy ending stories we’ve been weaned on, begs the fantasy that, with the proper series of events leading up to the finale, it might still be possible to recover from. It’s a gory and sad fall from grace, even when told with Simmons’ simple art.
Simmons is a realist, which is to say, I suppose also makes him a pessimist. House captures that universal point in our lives when it becomes brutally clear that the course, from here on out, is only going to get worse. For some of us, it comes earlier and more swiftly than most.
The literal moral to take away from House is far more straight forward—teenagers existing within the confines of a graphic novel should not explore run-down mansions. It’s a lesson we can all take something away from, really. Even without the immediately threat of spectres—which, despite the ominous cover image, only briefly make their presence known—the state of the once grand palace can easily be read as a parallel to the trajectory on which Simmons sets his trio of explorers.
Where exploring potentially haunted mansions is a bad idea, having innocent teenage love romps within their confines is just plain stupid, as anyone who has seen the most inane of horror movies can attest, given the reader that moment of intellectual superiority as our heroes hit that moment from which there is no turning back.
There’s nothing inane about House, however—it’s a well-designed story, and while Simmons’ textless execution seems initially gimmicky, the reader quickly becomes oblivious to their absence. House is a good, rewarding read, but still ultimately a painful one, until the final page fades to black.