In issue one, Frank visits a local village but is disheartened by the townsfolk's lack of information and interest in his family's disappearance. He witnesses a dog attacking a girl in the park which triggers a horrific flashback to the front, where anthropomorphic animal soldiers devour his comrades alive. Frank tends to the farm and the farm animals alone, but his dark visions cause his behavior to become increasingly erratic. Frank defends the farm from a late night wolf attack, and the second issue ends with a strange confrontation the following morning.
The opening chapters of Frank at Home on the Farm introduce the reader to a thoughtful and macabre swords-to-plowshares parable. The main character, like many service men and women, faces the real-life anxieties of returning home to a disorienting and uninviting world. Thomas and Bint quickly establish an eerie tone in the opening pages and ratchet up the suspense at a deliberate pace as the narrative unfolds. They populate the story with an intriguing cast of characters, and their interactions serve to heighten the creeping sense of dread.
Frank himself is also a mystery, but I got a better sense of his character the more he lost grip on reality. My favorite scene in the second issue was the aforementioned battle with the wolves. Driven to the edge of madness by his nightmares and flashbacks, the violent fight seemed to awaken the homicidal instincts he'd honed in the trenches. And it underscored the grim reality of his situation; even after the war, he can't escape the terror and bloodshed.
The layout of the pages was sometimes disorienting, as Bint switched between large and small panels, but the effect ultimately suits the overall mood. The discordant panels overlap and invade each other and ominous shadows envelope them, heightening the suspense and paranoia in the story.
Bint adroitly contrasts the pastoral greens of the English countryside with the oppressively dismal trenches of the Western Front. The juxtaposition is aptly jarring. The sickening illustrations of the anthropomorphic animals rampaging as Frank struggles in the muck beautifully illustrate the fear and helplessness of post-traumatic stress. I particularly enjoyed the sudden change in lettering, where screams and cries for help look like they were scratched into the panels with a nail.
The Kickstarter campaign for Frank at Home on the Farm issue three is going on now. Thomas and Bint have already surpassed their crowdfunding goal, and I'm looking forward to the penultimate chapter of their story. But I'm also a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all ships, and their success is a noteworthy boon for the independent comics community!
Creative Team: Jordan Thomas (story), Clark Bint (artist), NS Paul (letters, issue #1), LetterSquids (letters, issue #2) Matt Hardy (editor issue #1), Daniel Gruitt (graphics)
Click here to support the Kickstarter.