Clockwork Creature

By | Thursday, February 21, 2008 Leave a Comment
I just read Kyle Strahm's Clockwork Creature from Ambrosia Publishing. It was actually serialized online previously, but it was pretty clearly written as a piece that was intended to be published, so I opted for the printed version once it was complete.

The story is pretty straight-forward. Several local townspeople and a large number of chickens have begun mysteriously disappearing. A man named Baron Von Salt shows up claiming to know the beast that is responsible: a "cog-doom creature." He rallies the townspeople into a mob, as readers learn about the true nature of the Clockwork Creature and the fate of the missing townsfolk. The story ends with all but one character dead and he is last seen walking over the hillside.

It's a fairly light read. Not a lot of unnecessary dialogue and not a very complex plot. The main reason I liked this book, though, was the artwork. There is very little linework shown in the story itself -- most of the illustrations are rendered in blocks of black and white. It's very much a study in contrasts, and there's quite a lot of visual power in this stark approach. I might suggest a vague similarity in style to Frank Miller's Sin City however Strahm takes an approach that is less concerned with portraying striking light and shadow, and uses the black and white colors as non-representative elements that seek only to convey form. This makes for an arresting visual without replicating the pulpy noir feel of Sin City.

Another aspect I found striking in the visuals was the Clockwork Creature itself. It appears to be not unlike a mechanical horse, covered by some sort of light-weight quilt or blanket. The only clockwork we ever see are the beast's feet. But the quilt/blanket design is such that it's very easy to get a sense of the creature's shape and stance simply by following the contours of the stripes and/or checks on teh covering. To wit...
There's some really graceful work there and Strahm repeatedly shows a keen eye throughout the book.

I have to admit feeling a little disappointed when I first completed the book because it did, as I said, read pretty quickly. But then I realized that I only paid $6.95 for it instead of $12 or $14. That cover price also includes about two dozen pages of character studies, page layout sketches, and some other artwork that didn't make it into the story itself.

Personally, I really enjoyed the book, but I have to admit that's probably in part due to my background in graphic design. The beauty of this particular piece, though, is that you can head over to Ambrosia's web site and read the whole thing for free if you'd just like to give it a trial run for yourself. Like all good work you find online, though, you should do what you can to support the creator if you do indeed enjoy their work; if nothing else, it encourages them to do more.
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