By Ben Templesmith (Writer, Artist)
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 – I can’t possibly imagine what that might be. So far, Welcome To Hoxford is the type of horror that gives the genre a bad name. Most of the characters are extremely violent, mentally unstable convicts. The (heavily stylized) gore is fairly excessive, and there really isn’t anything resembling a narrative arc outside of finding out what exactly is going on at the Hoxford facility. With all that said, however, I have to admit that enjoyed my walk on the dark side quite a bit. Maybe it’s just the horror hound within me, but there is something noteworthy about Mr. Templesmith’s uncomfortable vision of an asylum with the potential to become more infamous than Arkham.
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. You see, Ray has a “virtual encyclopedia of conditions” and throughout the story we are given brief glimpses into his shattered mind. While not exactly the hero type, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he emerges as the main vehicle for whatever twisted plot emerges. There are things brewing inside the walls of Hoxford, but whether or not it will lead to a compelling tale remains to be seen.
Ben Templesmith handles nearly all aspects of this book and I believe things are much better off because of it. There is a clear, consistent tone to the writing and artwork that brings Hoxford’s gritty world to life. 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 can’t be ignored thanks to a striking color palette that varies with each major scene change. Also worth noting is the way Templesmith uses reds to make each scene of violence look memorably artistic.
There are really two ways one can 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 aren’t many books like this available. Templesmith is a proven storyteller so, for the time being, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and enjoy Welcome To Hoxford for what it is (instead of worrying about what it might be). (Grade: B)