In Sloane Leong’s latest comic, A Hollowing, a young girl named Casey discovers that the nature of horror is guilt. It posits that horror stems from a profound feeling of helplessness and guilt. It comes from the frustration of having been unable to help someone you love when they needed you. Horror is feeling like a failure and being unable to move forward as the world moves on.
Following a car accident in which she lost her mother, Casey has felt alienated from her own life. Both her mother and grandmother were horseback rider and they hoped she would be too. She was being encouraged to take the family mantle, even though she seems reluctant to do so. After the accident, she can’t move on, even though the world around her and her own body is reminding her that time is passing by. This feeling of guilt is something she often goes back to as she stood helplessly next to her after the crash, both shaken and powerless to help. She feels guilty, perhaps because she couldn’t help her mother, but also perhaps because she didn’t remind her mother of the necessary precaution while driving a car. In what feels like an attempt to steer her back to normalcy, Casey is gifted a gentle horse by her father. The girl is lost and frustrated, and the horse is a unique animal in its own right and they don’t particularly align well. This pairing brings all these bubbling feelings to the surface in a whirlwind of pain.
I really enjoy Sloane Leong’s art. Her medieval fantasy series From Under Mountains with Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland is one of the only thing on my pull list. The same quality in her art can be found here as well, a great care at illustrating movement, excellent pacing and a superb control of light and darkness. There’s a fantastic moment in which our protagonist wakes up at night and goes to investigate the sound coming from the stable, she walks slowly and opens the door, apologizing to the horse for a previous mishap, only to find a grotesque figure standing in place of the horse. All those elements of pacing, lighting and movement comes together in a short three page sequence. I think what I’m trying to say is that Sloane is a good author in addition to being a phenomenal artist.
I liked how dense and layered the comics was. I focused on the expression of guilt, but there’s a whole other series of theme explored in this comic I’ve barely touched on, from dealing with depression, adulthood and nascent sexuality. There’s a lot to unpack in here and it’s a comic that deserve multiple reading to truly get all of the elements at play.
I can’t wait to see A Hollowing in print format. It is slated to be released as part of the latest edition of Shortbox, which can be pre-ordered until March 31st here. There should also be printed copies debuting at TCAF if you feel more patient, though on the strength of this comic, you should get it as soon as possible.
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.