Hey there, gang! Welcome back to Pulp. I hope you’re ready for another round of comic book weirdness, because this week’s title takes the top spot in the list of weird shit I’ve read this year. This time around, I’m talking about the collected edition of Headspace, created by Aussie writer Ryan K. Lindsay (Deer Editor) and drawn by Eric Zawadzki (The Ghost Engine) and Sebastian Piriz (Gauze). Headspace is an 8-issue, self-contained story, so thankfully I don’t have to make any predictions or wait for additional volumes later down the line to explain odd plot points. Without any further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Something about Carpenter Cove is… off. No one can quite put their finger on it, and even Shane, the sheriff, has no idea why he does certain things – like sending criminals off to the horizon in a boat – but he just knows that he has to do it. The town is strange beyond belief; there’s monsters all over the place, and the local bartender is an anthropomorphic, cyborg dog. Yeah, you read that right. As Shane begins to see increasingly violent versions of the same man all across town, things start to click into place. Carpenter Cove isn’t real; it’s a construct in the mind of an increasingly unstable, highly-trained killer. As the town collapses, Shane attempts to find a way out, all the while plagued with the knowledge that the killer somehow remembers his dead son. I said it was weird, didn’t I?
I have to say, though, I’m impressed at the creator’s originality; while there are a few links to existing stories, Headspace has more than enough originality to stand out. It might not look like it on the surface, but Headspace is a gritty, modern-day sci-fi story – I thought I was in for a Lovecraft-esque supernatural horror, but boy, that notion went out the window very quickly. Shane, despite being the reader’s window into the story, is only really the main character by default; really, most of the focus is on Max, the host of Carpenter Cove, and Shane is only really around to influence his actions.
It could be that in my haste to finish the comic, I missed some details, but I felt that there were a few plot elements that could have been a little better explained – for example, the whole reasoning behind why Max is the way he is. I know that sounds vague, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers! It’s a relatively small gripe in the grand scheme of things, but it’s annoying me enough that the book won’t be finding its way onto any of my best-of lists any time soon. Not that I have any in the first place, but hey, I’m trying to make a point here.
With a story as odd as this one, it makes sense that the art would be equally as weird. For the most part, that’s true; artists Zawadzki and Piriz do an admirable job of depicting the pure strangeness of Carpenter Cove, but occasionally fall flat when dealing with close-up, character-centric frames. That being said, the character designs are on point; Shane, Max’s various incarnations and the aforementioned cybernetic dog bartender all look great and seem really well thought-out.
Headspace is a pretty interesting take on a sci-fi story; it’s got elements of the Matrix movies blended with Jason Bourne and bits of Shutter Island thrown in for good measure. It’s a very dark psychological story, and if that’s your thing, I recommend that you give Headspace a read.