Webcomic Weekly, delivering some comic goodness for you each and every week! This week, it’s Lowry Walk from Chris Doherty; a deliciously slow-build horror comic that’s going to leave your nerves jangling.
Well, I knew Doherty had form in doing great horror comics as I’d enjoyed his Video Nasties webcomic/comic many years ago. That’s still available online as well, so expect a Webcomic Weekly on that one at some point. But here we’re going to take a look at his new webcomic, Lowry Walk. And it is absolutely magnificent.
It’s described as a Giallo webcomic by Doherty which, if you didn’t already know, is an Italian term for mystery fiction and thrillers, but it’s come to mean a particular kind of thriller-horror-slasher mystery tale with plenty of blood and psychological horror.
And that’s exactly what Doherty serves up here, a truly brilliant webcomic that puts you on edge, gives you a shiver up the spine. This is one that builds deliciously, but the fact that Doherty’s already put the expectation of blood and gore into your head by calling it a Giallo webcomic means that every little twist, every little incidental moment has you waiting, waiting, waiting for the blood to flow.
That’s such a clever way to do it, playing with your expectation of the horrors that you know are coming to make you question everyone and everything involved, all thanks to Doherty’s perfect pacing and character building.
A quick idea of what you’re going to be reading… and I’m going to keep it pretty spoiler-free as it’s something I really want you to enjoy and be unnerved by just as I was when I read it.
It all opens up with Sam and Ollie as urban explorers finding a dead body in an abandoned house somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester. As yet, no idea what the relevance of that is, but it’s the first six pages and I’ve no doubt Doherty’s keeping that to come back to at some later date.
After that, the storyline shifts to Salford and married couple Emma and Steve Bates. She’s happily married, him not so much.
Emma’s unemployed and puts together a true crime zine with best friend Eddie, Steve works in Benefits fraud and is having an affair with 19-year-old Becky at the office, and anywhere else they can get together. Then there’s Stephanie, stand-up comic, who appears to have a shared childhood with Emma that wasn’t all sweetness and light at all.
Doherty does a really sterling job of bringing you into the story, involving you in the characters’ lives. And because you’re sitting on the edge of that seat wondering when, when, when, every little interaction takes on heightened importance, whether it’s Emma and Eddie delivering the new true-crime zine to the printer or just out for a beer prior to seeing Stephanie’s latest stand-up gig.
Meanwhile, Steve sets up in an empty flat to spy on a potential Benefits fraudster, telling poor Emma that it’s another all-nighter… with Becky secretly coming round after work to their little lovenest.
Empty, darkened house?
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything Doherty does in Lowry Walk is so clever, everything here is in service to putting that chill down your spine. But it’s the way he develops his characters, the way he gives us so many incidental moments, that’s what makes this a real thing to love, because that’s what brings you inside the story, makes you care about the characters, and makes you even more terrified for them.
Every single page I read of Lowry Walk had this anticipation, this excitement, and that’s just such a skilful thing that Doherty’s doing.
Seriously, I haven’t read a horror comic that’s had me this tense, this much on the edge of my seat in so, so long, and it was really wonderful to get that feeling in Lowry Walk.
Of course, having seen these pages and panels here, you can see that Doherty has the artistic smarts to go along with the horror storytelling smarts. Artistically, I’m seeing lots of Paul Grist, a fair bit of Philip Bond, but Doherty also takes all that and makes the imagery his own, with a sure, confident command of pacing and flow around his panels, around his pages.
Just take a look at these two pages of Steve setting up his benefits fraud surveillance and lovenest to see how much control Doherty has here…
Okay then, one final thing just to give you an idea of how clever Doherty’s work here is on Lowry Walk – let’s just take a look at his ‘cast’ page. Normally, webcomic creators who put this sort of thing in do it as a quick way of avoiding exposition and a shortcut to building characters in the comic itself.
Doherty does his “cast” page differently however, with each character just given a name and an image, simply to identify them and give you visual references, with the comic itself having to do the heavy lifting of telling you about these people, slowly unfolding their individual stories, their relationships, their characters. Thankfully, Doherty’s clever enough to have made his cast visually distinctive, making it so much easier to navigate the strip. It’s such a simple thing, but so often overlooked in comics.
Here’s just two of the eight ‘cast’ pics, just to set the scene…
Very nicely done, right?
But there’s much more here, with Doherty doing a sublimely clever thing with the “cast” page. Sure, it’s a little thing in the grand scheme of things but it really sets the tone and shows us all the comic storytelling smarts Doherty has. See how the cast are set out in a vertical scroll, in medium shot? Well, you move down the page, taking in each character and their name in turn… and then you get to the very bottom of the cast page…
Okay. Now you begin to get a little of that chill down the spine.
No name. Close-up. The fear and menace of the strip right there for you to see.
You know what’s coming. You knew from the Giallo title card reference. But now you know what it looks like.
Lowry Walk can be read here. So far, Doherty’s completed the 37 pages of Lowry Walk Part 1: The House Where Nobody Lives, and is getting started (when I wrote this back in March 2021) on Lowry Walk Part 2: Dirt In The Ground.
Now for Lowry Walk Part 2: Dirt In The Ground… I’m looking forward to more slow-burn scares already.