When I was growing up in the 80s, I was absolutely fascinated with horror and gruesome imagery. I was watching and reading content that should have been, in hindsight, way […]
When I was growing up in the 80s, I was absolutely fascinated with horror and gruesome imagery. I was watching and reading content that should have been, in hindsight, way out of my reach.
As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve read any of my previous articles, I was also a fan of comic books – and I’d read whatever I could get my hands on.
Imagine my excitement when I saw the TV advert for upcoming horror comic Scream, which looked as if it’d be seamlessly merging two of my biggest obsessions. To say I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it was a huge understatement.
It didn’t disappoint. The lurid, gruesome cover art and brilliantly twisted tales in each issue drew me back in time and time again – it was a comic that felt like it had been made just for me. It was glorious.
Sadly, it was short lived – with the comic only lasting 15 issues; with it being weekly, that means it was pretty much over by my 7th birthday (though a few of the strips did carry on in sister title Eagle – and there were a few specials launched in the following years). Despite this brief lifespan, it made an absolutely massive impact on me – and, with 2000AD owner Rebellion having purchased the rights to the old material and characters, it’s been great to see some of my old favourites returning in recent years.
One of the most memorable strips in Scream was The Thirteenth Floor. It focused on Max, the futuristic computer that ran a block of flats called Maxwell Tower. Max’s primary function was to look after the block’s tenants – but he often took this too far, whisking those who’d threatened or harmed the tenants to Maxwell Tower’s Thirteenth Floor (which technically didn’t even exist) to terrorise them, sometimes fatally. It was a deliciously dark premise – and often quite satisfying to see the assorted bullies and evildoers get their just desserts.
The Thirteenth Floor: Home Sweet Home is a continuation of the short relaunch story that first appeared in the 2017 Scream & Misty Special. In that story, teenager Sam Bowers is saved from a gang of bullies by a newly reawakened, somewhat malfunctioning Max. At the climax, Sam agrees to help Max by bringing him more wrongdoers to terrorise. This continued in another Scream & Misty Special in 2018.
So in 2019’s Home Sweet Home, for the majority of the comic’s pages we have a further continuation of Sam’s story. In 2018’s short, Max refused to kill a police officer who was getting close to finding out about the goings on in Maxwell Tower – and the repercussions of this are felt here. Officer Benedict is still living with the aftermath of her encounter with Max, however, now being able to see and hear the gruesome corpse of her murdered mother. Meanwhile, Sam has to deal with his ever worsening domestic situation – leading to a dramatic confrontation on the home front.
It’s an incredibly dark and twisted tale. It’s very well written and it’s to the credit of writer Guy Adams that I found it pretty disturbing. What I wasn’t keen on was the decision to have a large number of artists – with a variety of styles – illustrate a few pages of the story each. Though the work from each artist is generally fantastic, I found it really jarring to have the aesthetic switch so dramatically every few pages or so. That said, there’s some incredibly effective set pieces here, most notably with the weird juxtaposition of Beano-style art with leering, creepy imagery that I’d love to see more of. It just sits awkwardly alongside the massive range of styles and colour schemes that perhaps fits the surreal nature of shifting reality that Max’s stories go into, but which felt haphazard to me as a reader.
There are two shorter stories here too; the first being The Romantic, a modern standalone story in which Max visits punishment upon a man visiting his ex in the tower. The second story is a reprint of the very first Thirteenth Floor strip from Scream issue 1; it’s great to see it again and to go right back to Max’s first appearance, but with the strip being continued on a weekly basis back in the original run of Scream, it’s left on a cliffhanger here.
Still, as an overall package, Home Sweet Home is a great one off. It continues the modernisation of the strip and even leaves it in a position which sets up a very interesting new status quo with the climax of the Home Sweet Home story. It’s not a perfect jumping on point for new readers as such, given that it continues on from stories set up in the Scream & Misty Specials, but it does reference previous events in a way that’ll bring new readers up to speed if necessary. A few dark and somewhat graphic tales of crime and justice, laced with supernatural surrealism, are what you’ll find here. Just be on your best behaviour when you visit Maxwell Tower, or you may find yourself whisked off to The Thirteenth Floor.
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