“Bad Houses” Spins a Tale of Love, Loss, and What We Leave Behind
Best known these days for their waning logging industry and a dilapidated old brewery, Failin, Oregon is a town that’s seen better days. Residents flee in droves and the local youth radiate a sense of dissatisfaction with both their town and the generation that came before them. Two such people are teenage kindred souls, Lewis and Anne. Lewis is a surly pessimist whose childhood has been spent indelibly tied to his mother’s Estate Sale company. Anne is an emotional dreamer with an obsessive desire to escape from the hoarder’s nest of junk that her mother has constructed in their home. While extremely different, the two find common ground in their shared frustrations and refusal to cling to the past like so many of Failin’s citizens.
In Bad Houses, writer Sara Ryan and artist Carla Speed McNeil immerse us in the world of Estate Sales, and in doing so deftly examine the material detritus of human life and its affects on the people left in tow. While the bulk of the plot focuses on Lewis and Anne’s burgeoning relationship and family issues, the story has many linking subplots: Anne’s mother begins dating an emotionally unstable man desperate to escape the fallout of his own mistakes; an embittered old antique store owner reminisces about squandered chances in his youth; and Lewis’ mother Catherine attempts to maintain the life she’s built for herself and her son after a lifetime of difficulties.
One thing is made clear, in a small town like Failin, everyone’s lives are intertwined, and the actions of one person can affect many for generations to come. Bad Houses is a story unlike any other out there right now, and it’s a must-read for alternative comics fans. With subtlety and grace it manages to be both whimsically sweet and deeply sobering–a borderline-uncomfortable glimpse into the lives of those most viscerally affected by the passage of time, and the hubris of regret.