(UK fanzine) January 1997
Lost In Devon
A veteran of 70's fanzines, Gary Spencer Millidge has shot to prominence both here and in the States with his self-published STRANGEHAVEN. Ceri Jordan sums up the first four issues .
It's the sort of thing that could happen to anyone. One minute you're on holiday, driving through the Devon countryside: the next, a beautiful woman appears in the road, causing you to crash, and you wake up in the suspiciously perfect village of Strangehaven. And before you know it, the doctor's assistant is making eyes at you, you've been offered a job, accommodation It's the idyllic life you always dreamed of.
If only you could ignore the Masonic Order doing strange things up at the lodge, the mysterious dreams you're having about a woman in an aquarium, the fact that the local shop doesn't stock any maps for the area and there seems to be no way to leave the village.
Drawing on a long tradition of British surrealist tele-fantasy - The Prisoner springs instantly to mind, and correspondents compare it to everything from Brigadoon to A Canterbury Tale (yes, and Twin Peaks) - Gary Spencer Millidge has created a work of genius. Using the format of three interlinked tales of village life in each issue, he sustains an atmosphere both charmingly humorous and intensely sinister. With little 'action' in the heroic sense - though I suspect much is to come - our interest is held by the characters: and what characters they are. Megaron, the exiled Amazonian shaman; the mad Scots landlady, Mrs McCreadle; Adam, who claims to be an alien with X-ray vision from the planet Nimoi ("Oh," one admirer observes in some confusion, "I thought you were from Dusseldorf"), and many, many more. Even the outwardly normal characters hide bizarre secrets, yet this absurdism is never allowed to subside into parody, and our laughter is edgy, nervous, always aware that nothing here is quite as innocent or harmless as it seems.
Professionally produced in US format with colour covers, STRANGEHAVEN is equally impressive visually. Millidge's art has improved steadily throughout the run: his principle strength is his eye for everyday gesture and body language, beautifully complementing the characterisation. His increasing use of painted sequences, associated mainly with Megaron's shamanistic powers, add an extra dimension to the complex interplay of fantasy and reality that characterises both the artwork and the writing.
After three issues of tightly interwoven plot strands, hints, clues and red herrings, issue 4 slows down the pace slightly, developing the characters and reinforcing major themes and future confrontations. Anyone who enjoys the intellectual jigsaw puzzles offered by works like Watchmen will be at home here: Millidge stage-manages the complex storytelling with consummate skill, leaving the reader intrigued but never confused, and indulging his ear for the dangerous absurdity of everyday life along the day.
Strangehaven is already a major success story, selling out in comic shops in Britain and America, and it's easy to see why. Buy it now! I simply can't recommend it highly enough.
©1997 Ceri Jordan
If you've read any notable pieces concerning Strangehaven that may have escaped our attention and does not appear here, we'd like to hear about them! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
All text and images (c) copyright Gary Spencer Millidge/Abiogenesis Press All rights reserved.