Madness isn’t just a sudden change in being. It comes in waves, again and again, eroding minds and breaking wills like sea-cliffs, a constant thundering, maddening rhythm, threatening to overwhelm you and sweep you out into the depths of darkness and crushing insanity.
None are more familiar with this than…
This comic may be inappropriate for children due to depictions of drug use, some nudity, and violence.
Yaathagggu… is a city surrounded by eldritch horrors and absolute darkness.
Pieta Gaolwynne is a perimeter watcher, tasked with guarding the city by keeping her lighthouse running and survey the ocean, which stands as the greatest threat.
But things aren’t right with her tower or with the city, and one unlikely protagonist is thrust into a plot of mystery, intrigue and madness.
Written and drawn by Robyn Seale, The Watcher of Yaathagggu (hereafter known as TWoY) is a (you guessed it) Lovecraftian supernatural/psychological series set in and around the eponymous fictional coastal city of Yaathaggu (pronounced “yah-THAG-goo”). Long ago, the horrors of Lovecraft’s universe brought with them a never-ending night and are now an ever-lurking threat. Humanity’s only real defense against the things in the dark is a perimeter of lighthouses that shine over the ocean, staving off the darkness. As a Watcher tasked with maintaining the lighthouses, Pieta is constantly standing on the edge of darkness… and the constant pressure has started to take it’s toll on her mind.
Seale makes use use of heavy shadows in her art, which seems appropriate given the setting and themes of the story. There’s a sense of texture to the images; everything is dark and murky, even the walls and clothes, making them appear like they’re covered in grime. I see it as a visual cue to just how oppressive the darkness is here and just how completely it covers everything, even the people. Sometimes the layout of panels can be a touch confusing and while the comic does deliberately amplify the undercurrent of insanity by giving us visual cues into the unreliable perspectives of a world gone mad, there were a couple of times when it either didn’t feel on purpose or it contributed nothing to the scene. Despite that, the art is equal parts lovely and haunting, grotesque and beautiful.
The story, in the tradition of other Lovecraftian works, is wonderfully tense, occasionally surreal, and almost always horrifying. We’re shown the world that humanity has to live in now and we see some of the ways that people deal with it; most live day to day, some live alone, and others… others simply give in. Stoic protagonist Pieta is thrust into the plot because someone did just that, dragging her into the spotlight in the process. Under surveillance for her apparent role in recent events, Pieta finds herself walking a tightrope between duty and freedom, terror and safety. As the series progresses and Pieta becomes more and more embroiled in the workings of her world, we see more and more just how far humanity has sunken in order to survive… and how surprisingly little else has changed. Over the course of the story, we meet Pieta’s lover, a number of other Watchers, a pair of secretive investigators, a tribune of mechanical minds, and so, so many others. And that’s just in the first four chapters.
Thematically, the world of TWoY is heavily Lovecraftian, to the point where several of Lovecraft’s iconic ideas make their way into the story. The prevalence of the ocean, terrible nightmares, unnatural animals, and even a few of the Great Old Ones themselves are involved, at least in a cameo sense. Despite this, TWoY never really feels derivative – influenced, yes, but not overplayed. It manages to be something at once familiar and uniquely new, like a new pair of gloves that has been sewn from the pieces of an old hat.
Atmospheric, unsettling, beautifully drawn and lovingly crafted (see what I did there?), The Watcher of Yaathagggu is an excellent psychological tale of cosmic horror brought down to an earthly level. In a genre where mankind is either prey or plaything, it’s refreshingly original to see a story where, even in the face of mind-ravaging horror, Humanity does what it do best – adapt and continue with business as usual… for the most part.
The Watcher of Yaathagggu is drawn and written by Robyn Seale. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to her. It updates Tuesdays and Thursdays, though there has been a bit of a hiatus lately due to events in the artist’s personal life. If you have any questions, there’s an FAQ page for your perusal.