“Why are we obsessed with monsters?”
The October Faction does raise an interesting question. What is it about the unnatural beings that lurk just outside reality that’s so tantalizing? All races, creeds, religions, and social classes have their own monsters. You have the mainstream monsters made popular by the Universal movies such as the vampire, the creation of Frankenstein, the Wolf-Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Then you have the more obscure kind with Cu Sith of Scottish folklore, the Kappa demon of Japanese legend (familiar to anyone who watches anime as a sort of turtle faced person), or the terrifying Nuckelavee also of Scottish myth. Regardless, of your taste, the draw of the unknown holds definite intrigue. But that’s one problem with the October faction, it’s not really about monsters.
The story is basically an extension of the patriarch of the Allen clan, Frederick Allen; who has had a full life of hunting and destroying monsters. His past is one of violence and action and entertaining monster hunting, so it’s immediately made clear how he became so burned out and instead chose a more scholarly approach later in life. Fredrick is a likable character who has clearly experienced his fair share of excitement, and all the information about his past, along with his age makes his retirement seem more like a natural progression of his character, rather than a plot-device. If Frederick is the smart and experienced perspective of the monster hunting life though, his kids end up being the fresh and untouched generation; but they’re also incredibly modern. Or they’re supposed to be. It’s so frustrating to see characters that are supposed to be modern teenagers acting like the Addams Family. It’s not the attitude that is the real problem though. It’s the “revenge of the nerds” mentality that really makes them so incredibly unbearable. Both the son and daughter prove themselves to be targets due to their social standing/appearance, but then turn the tables in a viciously obvious way proving how much the story is about them by leveraging typical fates of the high school kings and queens (football is evil, standard attractiveness is the devil, blah blah blah) against them to create poetic justice. It’s not justice, it’s a cliché, and it makes both characters out to be entitled and holier-than-thou (maybe they are modern teenagers…) avatars for nerds to use to feel superior to their tormenters. It’s not a healthy perspective for the bullied to relate to.
The art is just as angst ridden as the characters but regardless of personal preference it still fits the tone of the story (desperately creepy in a less creepy time period). There’s seemingly no reason for this story to take place in modern times though, beyond taking cheap shots at high school royalty. So more often then not, the setting looks like they’re living in the early 1900’s, which makes the inclusion of things like cell phones, laptops, and Ferraris sort of surprising. The setting is so relentlessly dreary, and the “monsters” are drawn with such grotesque detail that the story succeeds at creating a very specific atmosphere. The unexpected surprise I found though was the action. It’s pretty short, but Damien Worm’s art finds it’s best home in the incredibly stylish flashbacks of Fredrick’s past where he’s a gun-slinging monster hunter in the 70’s (That’s the story I’d like to see).
Everything that happens in volume one is just an introduction. Although their perspective of their school lives is far too overdone to hit any kind of empathetic note with me (you may still be sore about that swirly you got in ninth grade) I still managed to like Geoff and Vivian and their casual and disaffected approach to the supernatural element. They’re very “why bother” about it, which is a very modern take (in attitude anyway) on monster-hunting youths. Despite that, Fredrick is just too cool for words. He’s experienced, intelligent, and he’s lived a full life. It could possibly be another “I’m retired, I don’t do that anymore.” sort of story, but for now it just seems like he has a genuine fascination for his craft. He doesn’t hold any ill will to his monster-hunting days, but he does approach it with a maturity that can only be gained with time. Despite the scholarly nature of this character and his persistence at asserting the variety of monsters, unfortunately all we see in this volume are ghosts. They’re appropriately creepy definitely, but the board behind Fredrick is filled to the brim with all manner of interesting and obscure creatures, but not one of them is highlighted in any way. In his lecture, he emphasizes how many different monsters there are despite the perception of the mainstream, but then the volume itself only focuses on ghosts and werewolves. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is strange to take a stand against the mainstream, and then use familiar creatures as antagonists.
Despite how intrigued as I am by the Allen family, this volume does very little to inspire me to consider them a “faction”. They seem to be separated on virtually every front except their for their affinity for the supernatural and their name. Hopefully volume two can bring this divide together, but for now The October Faction is nothing more than a promising (yet run-of-the-mill) start of a horror-inspired story, with an uncertain future.