Writer | Artist: Tom Manning
There is nothing else so similar to writer/artist Tom Manning’s Runoff as David Lynch’s television opus Twin Peaks. But, even the Twin Peaks comparisons fall short of the weird and thrilling mix of pirates, monkeys, monsters and supernatural geography found in Runoff.
Something strange is happening to the town of Range, Wa. Just after the mutilated bodies of four hunters are found in the woods near the town, a bizarre condition grips the area: people can enter, but they can’t leave. Because no communication can come out of the town, new arrivals keep piling in, filling up hotels, houses, and the city’s park.
As a tent city springs up, mysteries deepen, and suspicions are cast, the situation dissolves into further weirdness: A small, smiley-faced object is seen hovering in various parts of the city. The destroyed body of a man-like creature with huge, sharp teeth is found near the highway. People are seeing ghosts.
Something large is at work in Range and no one has any idea what it is.
Runoff is engrossing and fun, combining intrigue, gory horror, humor and the lockstep routines of small-town life to create a realistic, loose blend.
Manning demonstrates a strong, subtle skill with both his brush and his pen in the series. His thick-lined drawing style at first seems potentially awkward, but soon shows itself to be versatile, inviting and smart. Though the characters tend to look cartoony, the atmosphere Manning imbues in the scenery, the town, the incidental bits of people’s lives (pencils in a jar on a windowsill, leaves blowing through the air) are so right, so real, that you’re brought intimately into the scene.
His inventive page compositions, which sometimes eschew panels entirely in favor of montage, only compound this effect.
The writing is also strong, with clearly drawn characters and natural dialogue. The ensemble cast members are differentiated and broad, further adding to the story’s real-world feel. The story is able to hit points that are funny, scary, and real, all without losing momentum or forcing those tones — clear signs of an accomplished writer.
By the fifth issue (the last issue released so far), animals are talking, a dead man has risen from the grave to kill, and ghosts are howling through the countryside. You’ll hate that this is the last issue for the time being.
Range, Wa., looks like a real place. Runoff feels real. It’s that good. Of course, given these events, if Range were real, you wouldn’t want to live there. But you’ll love visiting.
The series’ first trade paperback, collecting issues 1-4 is now available from Oddgod Press. Oddgod will begin publishing new issues of Runoff with number 6.