Saturday Webcomic: Broodhollow is the friendliest little town ever to harbor a Lovecraftian secret

When compulsive, paranoid encyclopedia salesman Wadsworth Zane arrives in Broodhollow to collect an inheritance, he expects the worst. But the citizens of the quaint little "Town of a Thousand Holidays" are a cheerful bunch, always ready to lend a helping hand and involve Zane in the town's unusual traditions. But no amount of cheer can ease Zane's fears that ghosts are out to get him—or that Broodhollow might be the place where they finally reveal themselves.

Kris Straub is the creator of the webcomics Starslip, Checkerboard Nightmare, chainsawsuit, and F Chords, but his most famous piece of fiction is likely the creeepypasta "Candle Cove," which appears on Straub's horror website Ichor Falls. It's telling that Broodhollow (setting of Straub's latest webcomic of the same name) is sister city to the fictional Ichor Falls—or perhaps that's just to make us as suspicious of the town as our protagonist is.

Wadsworth Zane is broke and miserable. No one is buying encyclopedias in the midst of the Great Depression, and he's convinced that something is out to get him. A strange skeletal creature haunts his dreams, and Zane is convinced that everything—his nightmares, his past due notices, every miserable thing in his miserable life—is part of something he calls "the Pattern." To keep the bad things at bay, Zane has developed a series of superstitions he's devised to give himself a sense of control. When Zane receives notice that a distant great-uncle passed away six months after the notice was sent, he figures it's just the Pattern at work again. Still, he figures there's probably some money in the promised inheritance, so he heads to Broodhollow.

Despite his constant flinching, Zane receives a (mostly) warm welcome in Broodhollow. The locals are friendly and hold to peculiar but seemingly benign traditions, and Zane even meets a retired psychologist who wants to break Zane of his superstitions. While his uncle's landlord, the businessman Rutherford Planchett, is none too pleased with Zane's sudden, convenient appearance, most of the residents seem ready for Zane to stay in Broodhollow forever.

But there are a few suspicious things about the town. First, there's Zane's great-uncle's antiques shop, where the old man died and was apparently obsessed with researching genealogy and the town's history. And all those charming traditions and holidays may have something in common with Zane's own superstitions. For all we know, the Broodhollowers are unwittingly engaging with Zane's Pattern themselves.

For all its cosmic horror themes, though, Broodhollow isn't styled as a typical horror comic. In fact, it seems more like a lighthearted adventure comic into which horror occasionally breaks. And much of the humor comes from the way Straub plays with our expectations. Just when Zane thinks something is about to go terribly wrong, the situation turns out far better than he expected. And just as he begins to grow comfortable in Broodhollow, he's thrust back into psychological darkness. As we try to figure out if there are really horrors lurking in Broodhollow or if they only exist within Zane's head, it will be great fun to watch him squirm.

[Broodhollow]