Webcomics are still a relatively small market, but with such gems as xkcd and Cyanide & Happiness, they will likely continue to gain traction in the future. One hidden gem is the vastly underrated bi-weekly webcomic The Abaddon by Israeli cartoonist Koren Shadmi. The Abaddon, which began in January 2011 and finished in April 2013 after two volumes, was partially funded on Kickstarter and is essentially a comic book adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist play No Exit set in an apartment in Brooklyn.
The comic is about a head-bandaged man named Ter who finds himself trapped in a bizarre apartment with an equally bizarre group of roommates. He quickly discovers that his new home is a strange prison with a complex, mysterious puzzle that needs to be solved in order for him to escape. Over time, Ter also realizes that he has forgotten crucial parts of his identity and that uncovering his obscure past is the key to unlocking the puzzle of the apartment.
It is the coded, subtle way in which Shadmi unravels this puzzle that makes The Abaddon such a thrilling piece of speculative fiction. Shadmi’s distinctive artwork, drawn in pencil and then scanned and further developed in Photoshop, is the first clue within the puzzle: each of the characters is distinct—from Bet’s curves to Shel’s plump figure—yet they are all aglow with a pastiness that blends into the milky dreariness of the apartment.
Ter finds various symbols in his quest for escape, namely a journal that belonged to a roommate named Ral who had managed to escape the apartment. As the days go by, Ter discovers that everything that happens to him is recorded within the journal, and he sets out to relive those experiences and retrace them in order to find loopholes he can use to escape the apartment.
Ter also finds flies. He notices a picture of one printed on the back pocket of Bet’s pants, and a stamping of one on a piece of chocolate is later found stuck in the fur of Shel’s cat. Ter interprets them as a sign that there was a way out of the apartment, which Shadmi uses to effectively twist the plot within the story. He does this repeatedly in order to demonstrate the hopelessness of Ter’s situation. Ter is overcome with panic and anxiety attacks numerous times out of his frustration over his inability to escape from the apartment.
What Ter fails to pick up on are his own surroundings. The apartment contains mysterious pink gunk flowing through its pipes. Though it is never explicitly stated, the liquid is revealed to be representative of hell and blood. This recalls No Exit, which was in fact about a group of people trapped in a room that is quickly revealed to be hell. This blood and gore is investigated and expanded upon by Shadmi throughout the comic as Ter is forced to remember his own traumatized past and the demons he’s unwittingly left behind in order to escape the everlasting labyrinth of The Abaddon.
-contributed by By: Diandra Ismiranti