Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends the trade paragraph edition of ‘Lodger’, out now from Black Crown, an imprint of IDW Publishing.

by Arpad Okay. The Lodger runs a blog. Travel anecdotes, affirmations, reality inversions. The country wilts to the Lodger’s touch. In its wake are lives destroyed. It is a traveler between people as well as places. Same as hotels, hostels, rooming houses; Lodger in a body. What a strange creature, to kill is nothing because there is no one. Nothing but the lies of the Lodger.

Lodger will kill you, too. More than a rural road movie murder puzzle, Lodger is stone cold revenge. Gold plated pistol in the hands of a teenage girl, an aforementioned obliterated life left behind and turned inside out for clicks. Lodger is murders past, present, and future, life swirling down the bowl with history and hope.

David and María Lapham have written a cryptic, lurid, frightening story. Lodger is the Laphams making the pulp feel vivifying, but not by being some blazing thrill of comeuppance. It’s watching an ill-equipped young woman fail over and over again, pulling herself back up with pure hate, to misfire again, for fate to crush her like a cinder block. Suffering with the shit-eating grin of a genuine hard luck case. In short, as good as it gets in a crime book.

David Lapham’s lush black and white art is pitch perfect for the story told. Soaked in sweat and flyblown. Tears, snot, and blood unable to soil the untouched snow of bare ink on page. Heartbreaking. Disquieting. There is a haunted gristle in story and art that preys upon the book’s (and reader’s) tenderness. The product of factors is a pummeling read, a series of grotesques that leave one blindsided and staggering.

Lodger is a crime yarn not concerned with justice, but something nearby that exacts an unreasonable price. John Carpenter’s take on Fargo. It’s great fun as well as mercilessly bleak. One of the few evils greater than man walks the earth, and the only hope against it is the spent innocence of a girl unhinged enough to commit murder. If you aren’t upset, you aren’t reading it right.

The art is as smooth and clean as a cup of coffee. It also smolders. Lapham’s style is vintage Fantagraphics, monochrome as bohemian good taste art sense, Jaime Hernandez with less Archie and more Igort. The pages pop with the dynamic contrast between black and white without pausing the narrative to show off. What John Workman does for letters, Lapham does to every panel.

The curves and balance of space feel like the unencumbered hand of a veteran illustrator, with a level of real-life detail and professionalism that reminds me strongly of the Silver Age, specifically John Romita, Sr. Incredibly strong body language, facial expressions that carry the narrative, and when punches land the reader feels them. Lapham’s art may be closer to Dave Gibbons in its detail. Classically informed but busier.

Also reminiscent of Watchmen’s redeeming qualities is the expertly laid layers of narrative. The Laphams show you one thing and the blog-as-narrator tells you something else. The true meaning of each dance around one another, and both are changed.

The Laphams wrote Lodger filmic. The story is locked into a grid, the smooth pacing of celluloid. It’s modular enough to give big moments more physical space without interrupting the feeling of frames per second. Inserts take on the familiarity of montage, each panel that ultimate mise en scène, each cell a vision of intention and care. Impossible closeups. When I say films, I mean cinematography, editing, the tools of moviemaking. Inspired visual thinking.

The thrill of the cinema and the pleasure of a dynamic pen and full-bodied lines. Opulent blacks, crystalline negative space, beat and countertempo in the music of static image. No more life exists anywhere than in wild eyes caught burning in the pages of Lodger. Linger there on moments pure and smiling before they are fed into the garbage disposal. The shadows cut a body up as it folds in on itself. Lodger. Ghastly and sublime, great comics.

Black Crown / IDW Publishing / $17.99

Written by David and María Lapham.

Illustrated by David Lapham.

Lettered by David Lapham.

Edited by Shelly Bond.

Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Lodger’ TPB, courtesy of Black Crown and IDW Publishing!

More Required Reading…

Read ‘They Called Us Enemy’, a rich, complex vision where truth is paramount

Wroten zeroes in on the struggle for and with maturity in ‘Cannonball’

Hanawalt’s ‘Coyote Doggirl’ is joyously absurd and rich as rustic cooking