Only Skin #1

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2007
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Only Skin #1 Creator(s): Sean Ford
Publishers: Self Published
From: USA
Price: S $5.00, available from secretacres or

There are so many reasons why I love this comic. I mean the subtitle alone, ‘New Tales of the Slow Apocalypse’ is reason enough, and then there’s the fact that it features a Captain Haddock [Tintin] look alike character, well that’s me won over.

“Only Skin” is set in the wide expanse of middle America, and it is that broad and empty vista that dominates this first edition. The normality of this small town/ isolated setting is being threatened by the strange disappearances of some of the town folk. The mystery has a macabre flavour added to it as those who have disappeared have left a small part of themselves behind, namely their fingers.

No one seems to know exactly what is going on or if they do they are not saying anything, and it is that sense of what is not being said that really unnerves.

Ford’s skill is in his ability to create and maintain this atmosphere of tension and foreboding. The narrative is sparse and often simplistic but it is what is not being said, it is the action between the frames, it is what is going unsaid in the minds of the characters that dominates. We are constantly aware that the real action is taking place somewhere else, just off the page, just around the corner, and it starts to get more than a little scary.
There is a mystery to be solved then.

We arrive at Sam’s Service Station with Cassie and Clay, the two children of the owner who has joined the ranks of the missing. They have come ‘home’ to take over the running of the business and to find their father. I must say that their optimism is not shared by many of the locals.

One of the many admirable features of this comic is despite the main narrative thrust of the macabre and sinister disappearances Ford has not shirked on the careful character development front. The main characters are slowly and deliberately revealed as real, if troubled and confused, people. The laconic narrative pace matches the setting perfectly and also allows Ford the time to carefully reveal character and plot in a measured and considered manner.

The art work is charmingly simple, very reminiscent of Dylan Horrocks [“Hicksville” and “Atlas”] and just like Horrocks, Ford is able to create a wonderful sense of space, a feeling of a huge world spiralling around a smaller focussed one. Attention to detail like cloud shape is a feature of Horrocks and that same awareness is evident here. It is the feeling of emptiness that dominates this comic, a physical and a spiritual emptiness, a void that Ford slowly fills with a sense of threat and unease.

It is a town that could well be near Roswell, it could be a town that is linked in many ways to Twin Peaks. It could have the characters of Baghdad Café lurking in the shadows; it could become an X- Files case. It could be so many things but I have a feeling it will turn out to be something dangerous and new and very exciting.

Make no mistake this is a good one, and the best thing of all is that Sean sent me #2 with this first edition so whilst I would love to write some more I am far more interested in getting back to Cassie, Clay and that strange ghost that is floating around.

In a Word: Finger-licking-good

Sean sent me copies, and Horrocks sprang to my mind as well. Please note, that's the last time you get to use hyphens to make one word Steve! Ed.

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