Webcomics Watch: The Collected Works of Emily Carroll
For my second choice of webcomics people should read, I selected the stories and illustrations by Emily Carroll whose ongoing works can be found in her official website as indicated. However, I found a soft copy of her collected works in a torrent site which compiled fifteen of her stories plus other drawings. What was so immensely enjoyable and riveting about Carroll's works is the metaphysical quality of her tales. Most are horrific while others are downright poignant albeit while still being creepy. I discovered her when I stumbled upon a best online short story horror list which I found one day, and it included her tale entitled His Face All Red. It was instantly unforgettable for me. My review will tackle the seven out of the fifteen stories present in this collected file that I consider to be my personal favorites. The rest are pretty great themselves too, however.
I also want to add that Emily Carroll does have a published anthology you can probably buy which is entitled Through the Woods and I could also readily recommend it. It's a great introduction to her art style and narrative and her entries for that collection have exciting and fresh concepts. I think I can describe Carroll's works in general as fairy-tales by themselves, and they mostly shine light on the tantalizingly terror we all get that often hypnotizes us into actively staring into the abyss, abandoning all reason and caution. A lot of her stories are ambiguous in delivery, although some of her climaxes have been certainly off-putting and yet impressive enough to keep you invested long enough after just reading them. Carroll is definitely a most promising cartoonist and storyteller.
She had also written her share of quirky love stories and the one I really liked was Anu-Anulan and Yir's Daughter which is a tale about a goddess falling in love with a beautiful girl with long locks of silver hair which she freely offered to the goddess and others who would kindly ask for it. It's such a nice queer fairy tale that reads as a simple myth.
The six other tales that I definitely love are the following:
In, MARGOT'S ROOM, readers would get an interactive story where they can click certain items in the room illustrated based on the clues given on the prose itself (the mirror, the window, the doll etc.). By clicking these objects, the reader is then taken to a series of panels varying in style. One page will have vertical panels which you scroll down to, while another has horizontal ones that you scroll right to. The experience is a unique one as a reader explores the deepening and troubling psychology of the narrator as she struggles to make sense of the tragedy of her daughters'd death. It's a visually entertaining and gripping down to the very last clever panel. THE PRINCE AND THE SEA applies the same visual structure minus the interactive stuff. It's an unsettling story about a mermaid whose devotion to a prince went beyond what was considered normal. And then there's HIS FACE ALL RED.
Chances are, this is the Carroll story which people would have first because it garnered fairly popular reception in a lot of online recommendation lists for short story horror. This was a really brilliant piece that has a slow build-up, maintaining the suspense all throughout. Carroll's visual tricks also make it so hard to stop scrolling down to, right at the harrowing revelation itself. It's disturbing, much like the next two.
These are OUT OF SKIN, and ALONG THE WALL. Both stories are impressively rendered with stylistic panels that create a tension and atmosphere as their respective narrators reel us. For the former, the point-of-view is that of a female recluse who is being haunted by voices and images that seek her assistance to fulfill a vengeful task. For the latter, two girls were in a dark corner of the room, talking about seemingly innocent things first until they gradually prove to be otherwise. Along the Wall is somewhat tied to another multi-part story found in Carroll's published anthology Through the Woods so readers who have read that book first may be familiar with these characters presented already, while others would no doubt be left baffled until they also read said tale that was featured in Through the Woods.
That being said, I think All Along the Wall can still stand by itself because the ending of this piece was frustratingly creepy that even with the knowledge of the other story it is tied to, the effect of those last two panels really resonate well as its own horror.
Finally, we have the twofold tale of THE 3 SNAKE LEAVES which present the readers with two separate endings which depend on their choice of character to click. We have a prince and a princess who are trapped inside a room. They are bound to stay there together until a miracle happens that sets them free. The reader then finds out what happens to these lovers' relationship after they were both set free from the curse...but things do not become as happily-ever-after as it seems. It is worth mentioning that there are two runner-up stories that I'd consider to belong to the eighth and ninth places of favorites, and they were When Darkness Presses and The Hole the Fox Did Make because they are also scary enough to hold one's imagination. The first one has a combination of several approaches in visual narrative while the latter was drawn as a horizontal comic strip in black and white.
Other amusing contributions have to be the author's personal Dream Comics whose visual interpretations were interesting to look at, as well as The Grave of the Lizard Queen which was a work that was strictly told in a series of panels without any words. Finally, we have the final entry The Neighbor's House which actually made it to Carroll's published anthology.
Emily Carroll has three recent stories that were not included in this collection and they are Wild Creatures, The Groom and Some Other Animal's Meat. They're more well-rounded than most of her previous works which I think also showcased that her style and voice have evolved for the best. You are all free to check them out yourselves in her official site.