This is the latest in a recurring feature recommending classic comics that you should probably reread now you’ve got some time on your hands. The last one was Kraven’s Last Hunt. Next up: Strangehaven.
Strangehaven was originally a self-published comic by writer, artist, and designer Gary Spencer Millidge. The comic had a sporadic distribution schedule, debuting in 1995, with fans waiting a while between issues, but the good news is that you can find trade paperbacks of the work online so you fully appreciate the scope and sprawling story that Millidge weaves.
Often compared to Twin Peaks or The Prisoner, the story follows Alex Hunter, driving in rural England, and stumbling onto an unknown road that seems to lead him to the town of Strangehaven.
When a mysterious woman appears in the road, Alex steers to avoid her, crashes the car, and awakens in the town’s Bed and Breakfast under the supervision of the doctor and his receptionist.
Of course, there is no sign that the woman on the road ever existed, and before the end of the first chapter, we have been introduced to some of the major characters in the piece, as well as a hidden Masonic group that is interested in the arrival of Alex.
After he recovers, Alex is intrigued by the village, and intrigued by the inhabitants that live there. He tells them he will return to visit often, but when he tries to leave, it seems the village wants to keep him.
Strangehaven is a riveting and compelling read, and Millidge is in no hurry to tell the story. Instead, he focuses on the characters and the dialogue between them. As Alex learns more about them, so do we, and the interactions often seem more routed in soap opera than a comic book, yet there is never any doubt that there is something dark at the center of the story, and things start to bubble to the surface the further Alex becomes embroiled in the town.
With black and white photorealistic artwork that matures as the book moves on, Strangehaven weaves plot lines through the story that converge and cross over so precisely you often feel a diagram would be helpful to fully appreciate the storytelling technique.
The first collection, Arcadia, collects the original 6 issues, so it’s a great way to get introduced to Strangehaven.
The uncompleted comic book eventually became part of an anthology magazine, Meanwhile…, but as far as I can tell the story still remains unfinished, however there is something quite fitting even about that.
If you are a fan of The Wickerman or The Archers, you will find a lot here to investigate and we can only hope that Gary will one day finish this amazing project.