I’m not usually into horror, but while I was on my webcomics binge this break, I stumbled upon a little comic called Brainchild. I didn’t know anything about it and I had the vague idea that it was about mutants, so I went in pretty much completely unprepared. Quick update: it’s not really about mutants. However, it is about an enormous, unsettling conspiracy that looks to have a great effect on the personal and professional life of its protagonist, Allison Beaufort. I was thoroughly creeped out and thoroughly entertained, and that’s all I can ask for from a webcomic.
Trigger warning for body horror after the jump.
Allison is in her last year at the fictional Greene University, and at the start of the comic, she moves into a new apartment, meets her new neighbors, and has a box accidentally fall on her head. She blacks out for a moment and, for some reason, sees her older brother — who died when he was very young. When she wakes up, everyone around her looks like alien monsters, she starts seeing a mysterious grey-skinned, temperamental creature following her around and yelling at her, and an FBI agent shows up on campus doing some sort of “investigation”.
What I love the most about Allison is how she handles all of this new supernatural funny business. Reticent to her very core, Allison is adamant that she just has a concussion and resolutely refuses to go to an off-campus doctor or tell anyone about what she thinks are “hallucinations”. When she starts talking to the creature following her around, her first thought is to just get rid of it herself. The creature, who sarcastically calls itself Nosilla, tells Allison that it’s been somehow attached to her since she was very young, and since Allison’s the only one who can see it, it’s her responsibility to help it leave. Allison accepts this charge not out of some sense of empathy or duty, but because of the pragmatic outlook that if she can just get rid of Nosilla, her life will go back to normal. Since Allison pushes the scariness of her situation aside and focuses on what she can do about it, all the body horror gets less horrifying as you go along.
We’re just getting into the larger mystery at the heart of Brainchild (and how and why Allison and her dead brother are connected to it), but my only complaint so far is that the comic starts off very white. Allison’s roommate Carrie is South Asian and many of the minor characters are people of color, but other characters, like Allison’s neighbor Derek, mystery-connected scientist Dr. Ribaldi, and Allison herself are white. However, more people of color who could be major players enter the comic as it progresses, like the FBI agent and Allison’s new classmate, so this looks like an issue that will resolve itself soon! Similarly, I hope to see more queer representation in the future — our only such rep thus far has been Carrie running into her ex-girlfriend at a party and having a delightfully awkward conversation while Allison hallucinates monsters, which was one of my favorite moments of the webcomic to date and definitely another reason to want more Awkward Queers.
The art of Brainchild does a lot to add to the mood of the comic — author and artist Suzanne Geary uses a muted palette of colors that reflect Allison’s shock and numb sense of confusion, and Allison looks perpetually tired and stressed instead of smiling or even seeming enthusiastic. This, along with the colors, helps create a sense of realism within the larger sense of mystery that Allison’s involved in, and is also a welcome respite from the bright colors and general cheerfulness in most of the other webcomics I’ve been reading. I can’t wait for the next page!