A Guest In The HouseA Guest In The House

Creator: Emily Carroll
Publisher: FirstSecond

A Guest In The House is, quite simply, one of the best comics of the year, one that both feels like a natural next level for Emily Carroll and in keeping with the excellent body of work that the cartoonist has already assembled. Carroll broke out with the webcomic His Face All Red, which then became the absolutely excellent collection, Through the Woods. Most recently, Carroll teamed with Laurie Halse Anderson for a graphic novel adaptation of that author’s best selling YA novel, Speak. 

All of that work has been engaging and fantastic, but what Carroll delivers here with A Guest In The House is, it bears repeating, one of the best books of 2023. A Guest In The House is a horror graphic novel for adults (which in itself is a refreshing thing for today’s market) that feels grounded yet also capable of moving visually through a dozen different aesthetics, some of them outsized and fantastical. 

There’s so much to like about this book, but I kept coming back to two main qualities with my thoughts on it. The first is the excellent plot. There’s a bit of abstraction to the way that A Guest In The House is told, but beneath that, it’s still a very compelling story about a woman who marries a widower who is withholding not only with his feelings, but with key details about his family’s past. It’s an excellent story construction, akin to something one might find within compelling indie cinema or prestige TV.

This plot construction allows the book to keep a close POV on its protagonist, that it then uses to sow disorientation among the audience to great effect. As we try to parse the history of this man and his deceased wife, so too does our main character. We are all on this journey together, trying to figure out what happened, who to believe, and what level of danger we all face. It’s a very effective creative choice for the book.

The other quality that makes this one of my favorite books of the year is the aforementioned aesthetic flexibility. Some of the domestic scenes, for example, are played with very traditional artwork and page layouts … but then bookended by absolutely stunning flourishes of knight-in-armor fantasy, brimming with colors and intricate cartooning and a loose sense of reality driven by panel borders falling away and disintegrating. And that’s not all. This book has creepy monster art, hints of the supernatural, and even some tightening of the pages when the situation becomes especially fraught between the lead and her husband.

This is all visually interesting, as well as an effective way to give the lead character in the book interiority. It’s interesting cartooning not just for the sake of it, but done in a way that serves and heightens the story at every turn, imbuing an already-strong plot with tonal and atmospheric visual choices so subtle, many readers might not know what the cartoonist is up to, not technically, but they sure will feel the effects.

So yeah, A Guest In The House is a stunning work, an immersive treat that uses grounded horror and a bold command of craft to accentuate its ideas and themes, creating a reading experience that is easily among the best of the year.

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A Guest In The House is available now!