STATION 16 by Hermann & Yves H. got its first English language release through Dark Horse and you should probably track it down.
A Bandes dessinées horror book about a small Russian group of soldiers who receive a distress call from an abandoned station that hasn’t been active for decades. They send a small team to investigate and what they find is a spatiotemporal anomaly that thrusts them through time and in front of danger.
Considering the logline on the story, it’s nothing insanely inventive. It’s fun, sure, and it’s just enough to keep up with without getting lost, but it’s not reinventing any wheels. By about halfway through you’ll have guessed most of the turns in this path. I assume most people spent their youth filling their twisted anthology gourds with EC shorts and OUTER LIMITS/TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and if you have then this tale will unravel for you easily, and you’ll probably even predict the end by about halfway through – maybe even 5 pages in if you are really trying – something I rarely actually do, I’m happy to let a story play out for me rather than become my own Spoilers Man. But that’s not the point of the book. It’s not about knowing the journey ahead but rather it’s about settling into the way you feel on that journey, how your surroundings affect the temperature of your skin, and why the fact you can’t see through the copse of bush into daylight on either side is making your breath come in fitful spurts. This book becomes more about the page atmosphere than it does the plot mechanics.
The art from Hermann is the winner on these pages. The way he stacks and tiles each page so he’s routinely landing 9 panels per page, or more. He takes moments and beats and makes you feel the pauses and still have ample room to progress the story every time.
I’ve been reading some ASTERIX books with my kids recently so had been delving into that Franco-Belgian page style where 12 panels ain’t no thing. I’ve also been loving those reprints of THE SMURFS so to see that style, that page density, used for dramatic/horrific purposes was really cool. This is the sort of thing you can study because as much as widescreen comics are rad, sometimes just confining your characters tightly in a shot in a small panel can have some cool other effects. I found I felt trapped with these guys, and that the time was moving really fast. Each page rips along, propelling you into the next, and as time keeps changing, and the colours are sometimes the only signifier that something is amiss – until the character exclaims aloud what just happened – you feel a little like you’re blindfolded on a rollercoaster. It’s a breathless experience, and the ~50 page count on the tale also help that as brevity is a horror tale’s secret weapon at times.
STATION 16 is definitely worth your time if you’re into tone in your comics. If you like a little experience that’ll grip you for a short time and make it feel like a long time. It’s also helpful if you dig a little meaning in your four colour funnies.
There’s a visual used in the book that is the hollowing out of eye sockets. People are being experimented on and that’s one of the things. The look alone is eerie and haunting but it’s something else about it that slowed me down and gave me thoughts. It makes the book feel like it’s about how your country can sometimes choose to wilfully blind you from the truth, and the fact they literally have the means to do so is ghastly. To have it done to you, to see it done to others, none of these are good things. To forcefully obscure is an invasive and atrocious act and this book shows it as such.
There’s something enveloping about this book, and the art is something to really take your time with, so definitely do yourself a favour and pick up the STATION 16 HC so your diet can break free of the usual dreck.
If still not convinced, apply this trailer below once, or twice, as needed.