Despite clocking in at a slim 17 pages of story, Roofstompers still contains enough surprises to merit a spoiler warning for anyone discussing it past the first few pages. It's a twisted bit of sci-fi that begins in a series of very human moments as Dr. Carrie Thurston heads to the Rockies to clear her head after a traumatic incident in her operating room. Following a bear attack, she finds herself in the care of an elderly couple living deep in the woods and that's when things get strange. To go further would require removing the mystery that makes exploring this comic book as much fun as it is. Despite some missteps in pacing and exposition, Roofstompers still serves up a terribly twisted tale worth discovering on one's own.
There's irony in this one-shot's greatest flaw being its own brevity. However, Dr. Thurston's captivity is at the heart of a premise built upon tension—the creeping sense that things are not quite right as the flaws and failings slowly appear. There's no space for that tension to develop in Roofstompers. Carrie has barely been introduced to her caretakers when the obvious horror is made clear and the titular "roofstompers" are identified. They, in turn, barely exist as a mystery before being shown to readers. It creates a reading experience that does not allow readers to ever pause, wonder, and feel chills run down their spine. Instead, it's a race to the finish.
This pacing does not serve the comic's themes well, either. The first few pages clearly establish this as a meditation on loss. Dr. Thurston loses a patient in the Northeast blackout of 2003 and appears ready to lose her romantic partner when tragedy strikes. Further additions to the cast focus on this experience of loss and how it resonates through time—whether that's mourning a patient, a relationship, or even a child. Writer Alex Paknadel makes it clear, even in this brief space, that these experiences do not necessarily lose their power in time. There's not much space to reflect on Thurston's forms of loss beyond the first few pages, though.
Some depth is added to these figures and forms in their brief appearances by Ian MacEwan whose generous line work fills the cabin and its surroundings with shadows and decay. An abundance of lines crafts the natural world with early pages stuffed with wildlife and diversely detailed flora. It's initially a reminder to the vibrancy of life, but quickly evolves into a reminder about how life ends. Age is evident on each human being's face as time transforms older visages into road maps. There's little grace in those visages here. Every person trapped in cycles of grief appears to be decaying in some form with a few panels reminiscent of Bissette's Anton Arcane. Outside of the plotting turns, much of the characterization for this family found in the forest is left to their depictions and MacEwan's artwork casts clear judgments.
MacEwan's artwork, Paknadel's tightly plotted mystery, and the eerie mood they evoke together ensures Roofstompers will reward rereads. There's a lot to appreciate in these pages, even if it's not difficult to see how some additional space would have allowed the comic to really flourish: better developing tension and exploring its thesis. That lack of space leaves a few lingering questions that nag for all the wrong reasons too (e.g. why are the "roofstompers" misshapen?). However, this neatly plotted and devilishly detailed story still brings readers far more to consider and appreciate than the many familiar comics with longer page counts that fill the stands each week.
Published by TKO Studios
On June 2, 2021
Written by Alex Paknadel
Art by Ian MacEwan
Colors by Ian MacEwan
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover by Ian MacEwan