The opening to Awkwood is super weird and I’ll admit I really liked it. We find the main character on the front cover laying in a field looking all dead. Suddenly he rips from his own chest, symbolizing that he’s been reborn. We know this because a guy wearing a cat-head hat and robe shows up and tells him as much. Soon he’s rushed off to meditate and let the “Awkwood” take effect. Liam wakes up in the past and sees himself riding a bike and having fun. His younger self is confronted by a bully who decides to punch him for just having fun. At this point older Liam hides from himself, but his younger self rides over to him and asks why he let the other kid hit him, but phrases it as if it happened to older Liam and not his younger self. Suddenly the young Liam turns into a giant monster and begins attacking. Liam runs and is ushered by a voice into the sewers.
Down there he meets the doctor’s assistant who reminds Liam a bit of why he’s there, though the rest will be revealed later. She sends him to 1998, the year and party that he first tried heavy drugs. The party is broken up though when his younger self or his “Inner Bad” shows up. The doctor’s pull him out of his memories because of his heart rate and we learn that Liam is there for drug rehab. He heads home, but the Awkwood may have released his Inner Bad into the real world.
Back home we see that his roommate is part of Liam’s problem as he instantly offers him drugs and acts like Liam is being an ass for not taking them. He basically lives with his dealer which sounds terrible. Back at his job he gets laid off and now kind of has no excuse to not go to open mic night. He chickens out though and begins drinking and looks like an ass in front of a woman performing that he’s impressed by. Things get crazy though when his Inner Bad shows up and wrecks the place and Liam is rescued by the woman that performed. Eventually the assistant shows up to help Liam before his Inner Bad destroys everything.
Awkwood is an interesting look at addiction and confidence. The two can definitely relate to one another depending on the person. You really feel for Liam because clearly he’s lacked confidence for so long and done drugs to appease others for so long that he can’t break the cycle. I really liked the ending though and how he overcame his “friend.” It was poetic justice and thankfully wasn’t the bulk of the story which made it rewarding.
Overall the writing is very strong. The characters are believable and the dialogue felt really natural, even when it was intentionally being trippy. That’s my biggest gripe with stories that try to “trip out”, if you’re dialogue is difficult to read then the story is annoying to read. With Awkwood it is jarring at first, but then becomes quit natural.
The art was definitely my favorite part. It’s familiar looking. It’s a style I’ve seen done before to some degree and it’s one that I really like. It’s what drew me to the story in the first place. It definitely has an animated look to it which is always an easy sell for me.
The art is in all black and white and it’s clear that Jace Harper understood that. Sometimes black and white art is just non-colored art which doesn’t look good or use the medium properly. Here, Harper uses the negative space to his advantage as needed. His linework is also very clear making everything clear and easy to look at. Even though it’s stylized it’s still very detailed which was a nice touch. Harper also does a great job of world building with his story and art. Liam’s world feels real and lived in which is always an important touch.
At the end of the day you may or may not be inspired by this story. You may overcome your own confidence problems and if so then that’s great. If not, well that doesn’t change the fact that this is a well told story with some great art.