The juxtaposition of the back matter containing Barlow's old "Aquamarine" short comic and the newest iteration of 8House: Yorris showcases Barlow's proclivity for visually weaving mythology into reality. This issue of 8House opens with a gag that consists of a funny, odd little exchange between youths suffering in different places in the psycho-sphere that makes up such a big part of Barlow's contribution to the 8House project. The first part of this comic depicts the main character (Yorris, of course) trapped in a nightmarish state on the same plane as the aforementioned psycho-sphere. The second half of the comic consists of Yorris waking up and interacting with several other outcast characters being held in some kind of facility.
The thing which immediately strikes me is Barlow's choice to stick to ethereal panel layouts in the dream state, shifting to typical, rigid panel layouts after Yorris awakes. The design of her initial awaking page is particularly clever, and an importantly striking reveal to her unfortunate state. It's been clear since Yorris Part One that Barlow and Maier are drawing on some mental health themes for this comic, and that trend continued in this comic.
8House #5: Yorris Part Two also contained far more humor than the first issue had a chance to include, and its good fun. Barlow and Maier lean on the mutated outcast characters to deliver the humor but, importantly, set it up so that we are laughing with them, and never at them. The character designs are the kind of unique visuals I already expect from Barlow, but the dialogue shows that the creative team also knows how to impart charm to characters through their behavior and not just through Barlow's whispy, clever designs.
In the backmatter of this comic is Barlow's 1993 comic Aquarine and I have to say that it pretty much pulls back the curtain on Barlow's style. Of course, I mean that in a good way since what we find behind the curtain is all of the interesting artistic and storytelling choices that Barlow continues to make in the Yorris. For instance, one of my favorite things about Yorris Part One were crafty little lettering choices that blended seamlessly into the design of the area which the page depicts, and not just the page itself. Aquarine showcases similar choices, as well as being similar tonally to Yorris, exploring the way a myth is woven, narratively and visually, into reality itself.
All of this said, I think this comic is obtuse. I don't know if this is a criticism, and it's something that I have to say about a lot of my favorite comics right now. I think to read this comic you absolutely have to be someone who is comfortable with immersing yourself in the story, while being okay with the fact that there's all kinds of stuff you don't know or understand. There are a lot of comics, and there always have been, that make for quick, information-heavy reads: you start at one end, zip through to the other, know what happened, and really don't have to pay much attention to the visual journey along the way.
I don't think Yorris is like that, nor do I think many of the other projects under Brandon Graham's umbrella at Image are. I love that. I love having to sink my teeth into a comic, and being rewarded for doing so. But some people don't read comics like that. Nothing about this comic, to my mind, is so unclear that the gist of the situation is ever a confusing mystery, however, and that’s obviously a bad kind of obtuse that should be generally avoided, and certainly isn’t present here.
8House #4: Yorris – Part Two Writers: Fil Barlow and Helen Maier Artist: Fil Barlow Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 11/11/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital