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Strange Embrace
By David Hine
Published by Active Images

Here's a beautifully structured and elegantly propulsive tale of sexual repression and obsession.

Hine's four-chapter story is a masterpiece of misdirection -- at least three times during the tale it took a vastly different track than what I was expecting, while Hine's confident storytelling maintained the narrative flow with admirable skill. The story begins with a young boy sent to deliver groceries to an eccentric old man, which leads him to meet a strange and ominous character whose reminiscences make up the core of Strange Embrace.

Alex is a boy with psychic abilities who misuses his gift and becomes twisted and perverse, and most importantly of all absolutely obsessed with learning the life story of a reclusive antique dealer. The antique dealer has led a life of true horror, driven onward by demons that become frighteningly clear by the end of the tale, but which can only be guessed at early on.

Hine's writing and artwork is impressive and compelling, black and white with a skillful use of shadows to lend a genuine feel to the locations of the narrative (see a couple of sample pages here). Occasionally backgrounds and buildings hint at an expressionist style that suits the utter madness at the heart of the story.

There are times when reading Strange Embrace that I thought supernatural forces were at work in the lives of the characters, but I am delighted to report that the horror that is revealed is completely human and almost unutterably perverse. David Hine is a new name to me but his ability to deliver the goods in telling this horror story is without question. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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