Hell is Your Psychotic Roommates in ‘The Abaddon’ Horror Webcomic
One of the great failures of the English language is that there is no word for killing your roommate. We can describe patricidal and fratricidal feelings in just a few syllables, but we have all-encompassing term to describe the desire to clobber your roomie’s face in with his own unwashed dishes. If ever a comic demanded the coinage of such a term, it’s Koren Shadmi’s (occasionally NSFW) webcomic The Abaddon, which traps five roommates who want to kill or screw each other in a crumbling apartment, but even death won’t release them from their mystical dwelling.Channeling Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, Shadmi opens The Abaddon innocuously enough, with a man named Ter walking into an apartment, his head bandaged and suitcase in hand. At first, the roommates, Bet, Shel, Vic and Nor (only Pierre, the apartment’s feline resident, gets a full name), seem friendly enough. It also doesn’t hurt that Bet is a real live pin-up girl, but as soon as Ter agrees to rent the empty bedroom, he begins to notice some strange things about his new home. For one thing, his suitcase won’t open, and for another, the lights in his room won’t go out. Most disturbing at all, though, are the visions Ter sees when he closes his eyes: visions of another life where he served as an army medic.
Nor are his roommates the congenial folk they initially seem. In fact, the other four residents seem engrossed in a constant battle with their ids, which push them into lust, violence and general antisocial behavior. It doesn’t help that the only edible things in the kitchen are crappy coffee and beer. But whenever one roommate kills another (or the cat), death somehow doesn’t seem to stick, and everything quickly returns to the status quo. Meanwhile, spectral goo leaks from the pipes. Roommate Nor can sculpt it into shapes, but his sticky pink sculptures quickly break down. It’s as if the apartment combats entropy in order to foster chaos.
Ter wants to rally his roommates to find a way out of the apartment, like the army major in the Twilight Zone episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” However, he finds he’s the sole army man amongst a crew of cynical clowns. The other four roommates have been stuck in this place — known as the Abaddon, which some Judeo-Christian traditions cast as a region of Hell or the Devil himself — for years, perhaps even decades, and have long abandoned any hope of escape. The previous occupant of Ter’s room seems to have found a way out, however, and at least one other person can come and go as he pleases, so Ter figures there must be an exit.
At a time when so much horror is focused on gore, The Abaddon is refreshing look at an example of the genre that focuses the strength of its premise rather than the quantity of its blood. If he can’t find a way out, Ter can look forward to a lifetime of lights on in the bedroom, roommates fighting in the living room and possibly getting stabbed by the burly rageaholic Vic. But the more he struggles against the apartment, the more he seems trapped in its decaying web. It’s Cube without the razor wire, and perhaps more unsettling for its lack of physical consequences. What rare variation exists in the roommates’ hateful routine serves only to amplify their violence and perversion. We don’t want to be trapped with them any more than Ter is, but since we’re safely out of the way of Vic’s knife blade, they’re guiltily fascinating to watch.
While The Abaddon‘s immediately recognizable cousin is clearly No Exit, it appears that the comic will ultimately have shades of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Ter and his roommates are incomplete people who carried only pieces of their former lives, memories and names into The Abaddon, which begs the questions: What are they? And where did they leave the rest of themselves? Are the mysterious entities who wander more freely through the residential hallways demonic? Divine? Are they other truncated souls who simply have a better handle on the Abaddon’s secrets?
Although most of Act One’s action takes place inside the inescapable apartment, Shadmi occasionally shows us an exterior view of the Abaddon, with dozens of windows staring blankly outward. This grim Hotel California has dozens — if not hundreds — of other residents, people who likely have their own half-forgotten memories and their own ways to navigate the building’s strange horrors. As we wade farther into Inferno, will Shadmi show us the torments the Abaddon’s other roommates bring down on each other’s heads, or will he treat us to occasional sparks of happiness in this place of destruction?
The first part of The Abaddon recently came to a close, and Shadmi is running a Kickstarter campaign to support him as he completes the second chapter. Perhaps then we’ll finally get to see what stranger puzzles lie in the depths of the Abaddon.