Knight in the Snake Pit #1 is a chilling comic that tells the beginning of the story of Allister Ward, a man who wakes up in an asylum with no memories and no concept of why he’s there. Madness is the only constant in Allister’s life, and the text follows him as he moves between a confusing, maddening reality and paranoid episodes with narrative coherence and structure far beyond what he experiences otherwise.
Marc Olivent’s coloring is dark and gives an immersive sense of the dark, dreary atmosphere of the asylum. Colors are brighter in the alternative timeline; here, you’ll see blues, reds, and greens, a nice counter balance to the browns and greys of the main timeline, but remain muted and sometimes appear to be filtered through a haze. The effect is excellent: The reader is as disoriented as Allister himself. Kevin Chilcoat’s drawings also contribute to the experience of disorientation. He uses bizarre, but effective, angles of sight, inviting the reader to watch Allister as he is interviewed by asylum officials, as if the reader were looking down on Allister, but from behind the officials and from a higher viewing point, for example. Olivent also deploys a paranoid character layering effect; the officials appear familiar, recognizable as famous figures from history, but not narratively linked to each other or to Allister as such. The visuals in this comic are stunning, if not a little scary.
I am genuinely excited for the next installment of Knight in the Snake Pit, predominantly for its narrative quality. Allister is a strange, compelling character, and the various visual effects make this comic stand out. It also enacts a critique of the asylum as a mode of social shaping that is as strong as it is subtle; the critique works through mere representation of historical fact.