“The Amateurs” Is a Savage Debut You Won’t Forget
Another new comic sent to me by the extremely generous Fantagraphics Books, The Amateurs is the shocking and enigmatic debut novella of Conor Stechschulte. Set in a quiet rural community, it weaves a grim, gruesome, and gripping tale in the lives of two butchers who, upon arriving for work one morning, realize they have completely forgotten how to do their jobs. At a loss and afraid of losing their customers and respect in the community, they attempt to fill their day’s orders with disastrous and increasingly gory results.
Needless to say, The Amateurs is not for the faint of heart. Throughout the book are examples of suspense and gore that somehow balance on the edge between humorous and horrifying. The cause of these strange events is only vaguely alluded to through conversation and interspersed scenes of a troubled young woman’s diary entries. Everything hints to a much darker presence lurking beneath this pastoral environment by the river.
Where The Amateurs and Stechschulte truly shine are the moments of calm reflection that heighten the tension between episodes of violence and dismemberment. The butchers continually discuss their predicament, shifting between sorrow, fear, rage, and exhaustion. All the while the true nature of their personalities, lives, and relationships are revealed and built upon, making this novella much more than a brief detour into savagery. It speaks to the power of fear and its ability to warp and destroy the things we think we treasure.
Illustrated in black and white, fast-paced and haunting, The Amateurs is a quick read, but one that will stay in your mind long after. Stechschulte has already proven himself a master of both subtle and overt horror and this debut only promises more great work from this new talent.