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Welcome to Hoxford (2008) #1 NM
by Jason Delgado Date Added: Tuesday 16 September, 2008
How do you go about reviewing something that seems to be dark and disturbing just because it can be? While I am sure that there is something that resembles an actual story brewing underneath all the gore and language, unfortunately I donít seem to find one as of yet. Despite the moody and expressionistic, grotesque art. The coloring is generally muted, which works for this type of story. Itís not as bloody as you think, although it is fairly bloody.

Welcome To Hoxford tells the story of the newest batch of inmates to be transferred to the privately owned Hoxford prison/rehabilitation facility. Each one is given a bit of background, though things seem to be focused most on Ray Delgado, the most disturbed of the bunch. Throughout the story we are given brief glimpses into his shattered mind. Like in the first six pages from the abusive uncle with his hand over Ray\'s young mouth as he beats him, to the reveal of modern Ray in his cell with the broken and bloody cell mate in his grip.

While not exactly the hero type, I wouldnít be surprised to find that he emerges as the main vehicle for whatever twisted plot develops. There are things brewing inside the walls of Hoxford, but whether or not it will lead to a compelling tale remains to be seen.

While the characters are horrible and vulgar, they are believable representations of the dregs of society and written in such a way as to greatly add to the atmosphere created by the unique artwork. The artwork carries a density that canít be ignored thanks to a striking color palette that varies with each major scene change.

The only place where the story really stumbles is where the Warden reels off what laws are allowing him to keep a concerned psychiatrist from seeing her patient/prisoner; itís partially a comment on Americaís prison system and current curtailing of certain civil liberties, but what it mostly is, is a lot of clumsy exposition.

One thing that puzzled me is about the facility itself. Why Russian? There are privately owned prisons in the States, owned by corporations. Why would this high security mental institution have to be Russian? I assume itíll come up as a crucial story point (hopefully), but at first reading it seemed like a needless detail.

The lists of inmates are that of real life: cannibals, necrophiliacs, murderers & all. There is a clear, consistent tone to the writing and artwork that brings Hoxfordís gritty world to life. Templesmithís vision of his asylum is worth noting, and with the bloody violence we will see if this asylum can become more infamous than Arkham.

There are really two ways you could look at a book like Welcome To Hoxford. On one hand it can be considered a shallow, empty, and, ultimately, unnecessary addition to the horror genre because there seems to be limited storytelling potential. On the other hand, one can dive into the thick atmosphere and unsavory characters because, to my knowledge, there arenít many books like this available. We will just have to wait and see if Mr. Templesmithís cross between Oz & the howling works to capture & captivate us as an audience.

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars! [2 of 5 Stars!]
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