I’ve known about Tom Neely’s The Blot for a few years now, but for whatever reason I never got around to picking it up. After reading it in our hotel room the Sunday morning of SPX and now re-reading it this past week I can say with some certainty that I want to hijack a time machine Time after Time-style so I can go back, oh, let's say a year, so I can slap myself for not getting this book sooner. Why? Because The Blot is one of the best horror comics I've read in a long time. That being said, I’m almost reluctant to call this thing a horror comic as it doesn't have any of the stuff that would identify it as such, but the more I think about it and roll over the imagery of the whole thing the more convinced you could be to at least identify it as horrific. It’s a story ostensibly dealing with the horror of existence. The thing is though, what starts as something that seems to be about the horror of existing as a cartoon character actually morphs into a story of existing after a breakup with someone you loved. It's kind of hard to describe the story of The Blot, not because of spoilers or anything like that but because it has such distinct imagery that it uses to convey the story that I’m afraid that describing it via plot synopsis wouldn't be able to do it justice. Basically, though it centers on a man--for the sake of an identifier lets call him the lanky man--who lives in a world very reminiscent of classic black and white cartoons. Suddenly though, his world becomes slightly off kilter with the emergence of a free floating blot of ink that seems unusually obsessed with the lanky man. Neely’s style is very much influenced by the work of E.C. Segar, which is probably why he’s been working on Roger Langridge’s recent Popeye series, which has been nothing short of killer. It's an influence Neely takes to its most extreme, and in relation to the titular blot you're legitimately afraid for these characters in their proportion of the vast unknown that is the Blot.
The way the book is structured, the Blot is introduced as this all-encompassing force that seemingly sucks the ink out of its surroundings, but for a cartoon world that ink translates to life itself. Seemingly the Blot is an end all doomsday scenario for this world, or at least that’s how it starts. The Blot begins to take stranger and stranger turns as the Blot not only comes to seemingly possess the lanky man but a mysterious woman, again for the sake of an identifier let's call her the lanky woman, who may or may not have ties to the lanky man's past. It is with the inclusion of the lanky woman that we begin to understand what The Blot is actually about, because once we see how the Blot relates to the lanky man we begin to see that the Blot is actually a powerful metaphor for depression, albeit a metaphor that makes us unsure of what we've seen it do before was real. The reality of this begins to crumble as we’re given more and more clues as to what this is actually about, when it suddenly all clicks into place once we meet the lanky woman. From her introduction, the imagery that Neely uses is unmistakable from the various mental anguishes that anyone who has gone through a breakup would be hard-pressed not to see.
Neely uses the last half of the book to give The Blot an almost hallucinatory feel, although arguably that feel started from the start, given that the book is for the most part silent. When there is dialogue, which is always delivered by the lanky woman, it is done in such a way that is so soft and ethereal that it adds to the overall surreal feel of the story. This feeling becomes all the more powerful when you take it as mental imagery from a fairly hard breakup, and when that mental imagery is filtered through Neely’s visual lens they become brutally disturbing in a very physical way. He takes all these, for the most part, universal touchstones of dealing with the end of a relationship such as depression, demonizing the one who takes your love away from you, beating yourself up over perceived mistakes, and the masks we sometimes wear to keep a façade going and makes their interpretations incredibly twisted to the point where they go to darker and darker places. In some ways I feel like I might be giving the whole book away with the review, but at the same time I don’t even think I’m scratching the surface of what this book does and I really do encourage all of you to not make the same mistake I did and wait to buy this book. Go buy it now so you don’t have to hijack a time machine later.
TL;DR: The Blot is a visually striking book with a on the surface simple story that becomes deeper and more disturbing the further you get into it.