Clive Barker’s Seduth (IDW Publishing)

seduth-header.jpgHorror master Clive Barker (Hellraiser) returns to comics with a one-shot in eye-popping 3D.

 

 

 

32 pgs., color; $5.99

(W : Clive Barker, Chris Monfette; A: Gabriel Rodriguez)

Seduth is Clive Barker’s first original comic in years and also his first effort in 3D, so naturally it has generated a lot of buzz prior to the October 14 release date. Well, Barker and 3D plus the $5.99 cover price which is high for a 32-page comic, even one which comes with cardboard 3D glasses bound in the back.  So is it worth it?

The cover to Seduth. Click for a larger image.That all depends on what your priorities are. If you’re looking for traditional storytelling you’ll probably want to give this one a miss. It’s a one-shot narrated by an architect whose voice seems to have been lifted from an Edgar Allen Poe tale. He encounters an evil diamond which sets him off on a mystical journey that doesn’t skimp on the horror elements (would you expect less from the man who brought us Hellraiser?).  But there’s not much in the way of traditional narrative: basically the story serves as the vehicle for a sequence of crypto-poetic allusions to strange and mysterious things. To get much out of Seduth, you need a high tolerance for pseudo-mystical declarations ("There is a thread that runs between us, bound and binding. A system.  A sinew at the center of the world…") which sound to me like somebody’s been smoking too many magic mushrooms.

The payoff comes in the art. You have to wear the 3D glasses to get anything out of it, and they have to be right next to your eyes which can be a problem if you already wear corrective lenses (I trimmed the cardboard frame so they’d fit under my glasses). But it’s worth making the effort because when you get the distance right the pictures practically leap off the page, taking you into Barker’s mad universe so effectively that you care much less about whether the story makes any sense. The headshop style of the art is a good match to the rather trippy narration and the individual frames are stunning, but they don’t really flow the way a narrative comic does: the effect is more like a series of miniature posters, each of which can be admired for its own sake.  

This may be the best approach to 3D comics until someone comes up with a pair of 3D glasses which are actually comfortable to wear. Imagine reading a story while holding colored cellophane right next to your eyes and you’ll get the idea—doing this for very long is an engraved invitation to a headache. The glasses also block a lot of light which makes the text difficult to read so I found myself putting the glasses on for the picture and taking them off to read the text, an experience which further interrupts the narrative flow. This volume is mainly for hardcore Barker fans and fanciers of 3D comics (which have been around since the 1950’s, by the way) while for the rest of us it’s an interesting first effort at using a new technique which may lead to more satisfying products in the future.

Seduth comes with four pages of author notes and sketches. You can see a preview of this comic at http://io9.com/5379907/seduth-preview. | Sarah Boslaugh

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