Also by this author
Naming Monsters cover

Blackwood

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'A brilliant and deeply foreboding triumph of folk horror, Blackwood is a deftly-woven intergenerational web of tradition and trauma, of suspicion and superstition, and timely in a way that I wish to god it wasn’t.'—Hannah Berry, UK Comics Laureate

Turnaround Book of the Month
Gnash Comics Book of the Month

A unique graphic novel of a small town community creates a mini-Middlemarch with a Wicker Man twist in a beautifully drawn murder mystery. Blackwood is set in a rural town in middle England where the residents are determined to preserve the status quo – at any cost.

A pair of murders has occurred 65 years apart, uncanny echoes of each other, in the ancient woods beside Blackwood. Evidence and local lore suggest overtones of ritual or of the occult, but despite thorough police investigations, no charges are made. Peg, in her nineties, and her great-grandson, 11-year-old Mason, hold clues to the town’s secrets, but Peg’s dementia dismisses her as unreliable, and no-one wants to listen to a child. Hannah Eaton deftly handles her cast of townspeople with warmth, humour, and humanity, reserving special sympathy for the outsiders – both victims and investigators – who dare to penetrate the community’s closed doors.

Blackwood gradually reveals the dark soul of a town where local politics and the human heart conspire to preserve its way of life at the expense of truth or justice. Blackwood both harks back to days of folklore and is a harbinger of future times in the political landscape we now find ourselves living in.

Hannah Eaton’s second graphic novel follows her much-acclaimed debut, Naming Monsters (2013); an excerpt from it was shortlisted for the 2012 Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition and for the Graphic Scotland 9th Art Award.

Ian Loxam and Nikki Bates, Comic Art Podcast

16 October 2020

Nikki: This intrigued me straight away as a lover of supernatural, weird stuff. Quite a few interweaving stories: it’s really quite disturbing. It’s brilliantly dark. And everywhere there is this corn dolly… you see it in people’s houses and the sketches and everything. It just sets you off. All pencil drawings, very intricate, nothing has got a straight line, it’s very intricate and detailed. It’s an amazing book. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it’s refreshing to read something different and twisty and spooky, especially at this time because it’s coming up to Halloween.

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Graphic Novel of the Month, Turnaround

7 October 2020

Our Graphic Novel of The Month for October is Myriad’s Blackwood – a period murder mystery with a horror twist from the creator of the acclaimed Naming Monsters (shortlisted for the 2012 First Graphic Novel Competition and the Graphic Scotland 9th Art Award in 2013).

A pair of murders has occurred 65 years apart, uncanny echoes of each other, in the ancient woods beside Blackwood. Evidence and local lore suggest overtones of ritual or of the occult, but despite thorough police investigations, no charges are made. Peg, in her nineties, and her great-grandson, 11-year-old Mason, hold clues to the town’s secrets, but Peg’s dementia dismisses her as unreliable, and no-one wants to listen to a child.

Meanwhile, the Ealders meet to discuss the town’s ‘problems’, not least the new-age travellers and immigrant families. In a late-night gathering, these menfolk venture into the woods, dance naked around a bonfire and sacrifice a dead dog, in the hopes of preserving their own inviolability and that of the town.

Eaton made a strong impression with her debut and this latest comic proves she is no flash in the frying pan. As with her previous work, there is a level of intricacy and authenticity that helps carry the story. The Weston and Brennan families are given detailed family trees to help guide readers through the timeline of the two murders whilst Eaton develops the characters. Both historical periods are given equal care, woven together in a way that deeply enhances the murder mystery, whilst also building something far more sinister in the disturbing history of Blackwood and those who control it behind the scenes. All the while showing the impact the murders in both periods have had on the Weston and Brennan families, as well as the dangers of being too steeped in tradition and unwilling to accept outsider perspectives.

The art is highly detailed and evokes both time periods perfectly, showing a level of research and care that many reader will appreciate. It is also a style that lends itself to several different tones whether it be gritty murder, or the almost supernatural ambience the story takes at certain times. The Ealders in particular benefit from Eaton’s handiwork, with their ghoulish appearance and behavior made all the more disturbing.

This is another strong showing from Hannah Eaton and perfect for Halloween reading. All fans of horror comics will want to give this a look.

Blackwood by Hannah Eaton is out now from Myriad Editions (9781908434715, p/b, £18.99)

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Peter James Field, Brighton Source

6 October 2020

A mother takes her children out into a cold, rainy night. Suitcases in hand, they walk off into the woods near their home town, never to be seen again. Flashing back some seventy years, a man from the same locality is murdered in the woods. How are these two events related? Hannah Eaton’s new graphic novel ‘Blackwood’ invites its readers on a voyage through small-town superstition and long held family secrets.

Eaton was shortlisted for the 2012 First Graphic Novel competition, eventually publishing her debut the following year. ‘Naming Monsters’ juxtaposed scenes from its teenage narrator’s everyday life in London with stories of the creatures of myth and legend – the Incubus, the Golem, the Black Dog, and others. This intelligent and witty book used monsters to, in Eaton’s words, “represent the unrepresentable or unspeakable elements of her [the narrator’s] own experience.”

‘Blackwood’ expands on many of the themes in that debut, but now the scope is wider and more cinematic. Tellingly, the book begins with a pair of tree diagrams detailing the dramatis personae and their inter-relationships – a helpful reference point for an ambitious story which spans seven decades across some 368 pages.

Eaton certainly pulls it off: the dialogue is particularly well observed, and each of the characters have their own individual speech patterns. Meanwhile the drawings, executed expressively in soft pencil, reflect the emotions of the characters, and complement the text with beautifully observed details that reward close examination – from the handmade ‘Keep Out’ sign on a child’s bedroom door, to the cheap Van Gogh print decorating Peg’s front room.

Eaton has lived in Brighton for 12 years, and finds much inspiration in the city. “I love living somewhere people come for rituals and special occasions,” she tells us, “from Pride to hen nights to sea swimmers under the full moon, and the religious people who leave offerings of oranges and plaster gods on the shore.”

Eaton’s fascination with the superstitions and rituals of England provide, inevitably, a central theme in ‘Blackwood’. A shady group of the town’s self-styled ‘Ealders’ meet, for example, to discuss immigrants and new-age travellers, before committing a bizarre animal sacrifice in the woods. It’s deliciously strange, disturbing and comical.

In the book’s afterword, the author reflects on the fact that this is “a completely fictional story about mostly true stories” – and it’s undeniable that ‘Blackwood’, despite these fantastical elements, remains anchored in truth, examining vital themes of immigration, race and identity. All human behaviour is on some level absurd, the author seems to say, and this could be any English town. Her work always maintains this tension between the bizarre and the humdrum. In ‘Blackwood’ Eaton successfully evokes a world which is strange and bizarre – but often uncomfortably recognizable.

Blackwood is out now. Purchase direct from Myriad Editions.
www.myriadeditions.com/creator/hannah-eaton

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Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier

2 October 2020

“You’re telling me, I live there! It makes The Wicker Man look like Balamory.”

That description of the titular town of Blackwood comes from one of the book’s large cast of characters around the midway point of Hannah Eaton’s eerie graphic novel. It’s a fitting encapsulation not simply of the fictional locale of her story but also of its thematic explorations. Blackwood is steeped in tradition, history and a sense of community. But that latter quality extends only to its established locals, as outsiders are quick to discover.

Ostensibly Blackwood is a murder mystery but in reality it’s a far, far more layered work than that. In the ancient woodland that surrounds the rural town two very similar murders occur but decades apart. In 1950 a local man is killed in what appears to have been a ritualistic slaying with links to witchcraft. In the present day a homeless man dies in a murder that bears the same marks. As both deaths are investigated the timeline switches backwards and forwards across the decades as secrets are revealed, hidden truths behind locked doors unravel, and the darker side of Blackwood comes to the forefront…

The initial hook of these dual murder cases, though, is simply an entry point into the wider world of Blackwood and the bleakness it conceals. It’s the story of the Weston and Brennan families, and the consequences of the events and family secrets that have shaped the courses of their lives over the years, drives the narrative onwards. Added to this potent mix in the different time zones are the strange cabal of councillors and local businessmen using mystic rites to protect their environment from outside influences; a decadent peer with his own zoo and a workforce of younger men he uses as his playthings; two sets of investigating police officers who must face suspicion and distrust from the locals; and a young boy whose investigations into the disappearance and incarceration of people without trial in the vicinity are ignored by the adults around him.

With so many plot threads feeding into an overarching storyline it may come as little surprise to hear that there are two pages of “family tree” illustrations at the beginning of Blackwood to ensure that readers can keep track of the vast number of cross-generational players in the cast. Eaton slowly builds up the multiple mysteries in chronological increments, shifting between the two historical periods in a manner that allows each to mirror the other, as we slowly piece together how the past has influenced the present in regards not just to the brutal crimes we witness but of the family dynamics and town politics of Blackwood too.

There is much to unpack in these pages but for all its folk horror overtones this is a strikingly contemporary book. Blackwood is a locale that represents the small-minded, parochial self-interest and bigotry of Middle England in darkly outlandish microcosm. What makes events there all the more disturbing is that a year or two ago it would have felt like a fictional warning shot, a moral object lesson that extrapolated current events. Now it feels more like a reflection of them and that is the most horrifying aspect of Blackwood by far.

The hazy, dreamlike artwork perfectly serves a story that feels both occasionally otherworldly in tone and yet firmly rooted in a most recognisable reality. Eaton’s time-jumping mystery crosses generations and decades with a frighteningly relevant mix of folklore and social commentary. A quietly brooding indictment of British insularity that is all the more sinister for its unsettling familiarity.

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Simon Chadwick, The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain

30 September 2020
The book opens with a wedding and you’re quickly unsettled by the off-kilter proceedings. Normal enough on the face of it, but not quite right. This is highlighted by the arrival of guests from the nearby town who mistakenly visit the wrong church. But for all the strange goings-on, it’s the character-driven narrative that sells the book to the reader. Regardless of where and how you live, your everyday life becomes your normal, and whatever struggles you’re presented with they still boil down to family and friendship, right and wrong, justice and injustice. Following how the characters navigate these problems is what keeps you turning the pages.Eaton makes no bones about being inspired by The Wicker Man and many other British stories and folk tales. No doubt the corn dollies and Black Dog will be familiar to you. It reminded me much of another great comic series, Strangehaven, but where Blackwood takes you is somewhere very much of Eaton’s own devising. Her illustrative style, using pencil and rounded panels, evokes a dreamlike quality. It’s softer and somehow reassuring, making the harsher, blunter aspects of the story more visceral.

Blackwood might be a village of the rural British countryside, but much of its bleaker moments and darker problems are those common to everyone everywhere. When the superstition is stripped back the real horror is there to see.

This is only Hannah Eaton’s second book (I’ll be looking out for her first, Naming Monsters) and yet it thrums with storytelling confidence, great dialogue and fully-rounded characters. She’s a welcome addition to British comics’ talent and this book is sure to get her noticed internationally. I hope we see plenty more from her.

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Simon Chadwick

There’s something inherently captivating about the sleepy British village. Many of us dream of escaping there, or live somewhere like it already. Chocolate box cottages, village greens, pretty churches, and hundreds of years of history to call upon. Inevitably they have their own traditions, folk tales and darker sides too, and this aspect has equal appeal. It’s what 60s’ shows like The Avengers were built upon, why the Wicker Man still captivates and even why Radiohead’s Burn The Witch video draws you in. The possibility of a creepier, more unsettling side to Britain is just too irresistible to pass up.

Hannah Eaton jumps in with both feet with her book Blackwood. A community with many secrets, all slowly revealed as the tale unfolds. At its heart are two murders, 65 years apart. However, they’re not the only deaths, or misery, to befall the place. We’re introduced to Peg, clearly challenged by the early stages of dementia, who somehow is the connecting piece between the murders. It’s around her, and her family, that the main narrative revolves. There are other characters too, from the town’s ealdors and their rituals, to the investigating policemen across two eras, plus the innocents caught up in the greater conspiracy. It’s a large cast list to keep track of, but Eaton guides you through and delivers with the conclusion.

The book opens with a wedding and you’re quickly unsettled by the off-kilter proceedings. Normal enough on the face of it, but not quite right. This is highlighted by the arrival of guests from the nearby town who mistakenly visit the wrong church. But for all the strange goings-on, it’s the character-driven narrative that sells the book to the reader. Regardless of where and how you live, your everyday life becomes your normal, and whatever struggles you’re presented with they still boil down to family and friendship, right and wrong, justice and injustice. Following how the characters navigate these problems is what keeps you turning the pages.

Eaton makes no bones about being inspired by The Wicker Man and many other British stories and folk tales. No doubt the corn dollies and Black Dog will be familiar to you. It reminded me much of another great comic series, Strangehaven, but where Blackwood takes you is somewhere very much of Eaton’s own devising. Her illustrative style, using pencil and rounded panels, evokes a dreamlike quality. It’s softer and somehow reassuring, making the harsher, blunter aspects of the story more visceral.

Blackwood might be a village of the rural British countryside, but much of its bleaker moments and darker problems are those common to everyone everywhere. When the superstition is stripped back the real horror is there to see.

This is only Hannah Eaton’s second book (I’ll be looking out for her first, Naming Monsters) and yet it thrums with storytelling confidence, great dialogue, and fully-rounded characters. She’s a welcome addition to British comics’ talent and this book is sure to get her noticed internationally. I hope we see plenty more from her.

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