David Hine’s Strange Embrace, first published in 1993, is one of the most outstanding British graphic novels and a gem of Gothic storytelling waiting to be discovered. It was collected into trade in its original black-and-white expressionistic style by Active Images in 2003, resulting in an immediate critical and commercial success. A full-colour hardback edition was finally released by Image Comics in 2008.
While the themes (e.g. dysfunctional family, obsession, secrets from the past haunting the present) and certain narrative devices (e.g. multiple narrators, unreliability) are borrowed from the canon of nineteenth-century British Gothic and sensation fiction, the book is almost a masterclass in how the visual strategies of the medium, such as mirroring, foreshadowing, page design or wordless sequences, can be used to full advantage. It also features a fully developed iconography: in certain key parts of the book we find a concentration of symbolically loaded images that form visual nodes or knots through which the reader gradually arrives at a greater understanding of how the various seemingly disparate elements are all interlinked. Strange Embrace is a must-read for every person only remotely interested in the Gothic. (Just in case you were wondering: I don’t receive any money from the publishers. I genuinely believe that this is a masterpiece deserving wider recognition.)
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