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Webcomic / His Face All Red

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"We were separated. The beast must have devoured him. This was the only trace I found."

"His Face All Red" is a short horror comic written by Emily Carroll, reminiscent of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. First published online in 2010, it's been published in print form in Carroll's collection Through the Woods.

Our main character sits at a bar, watching a man happily socialize, and thinks to himself that this man is not his brother. Even though this man has his brother's wife, his property, his charismatic demeanor, and even his face, it can't be his brother.

Because just a week ago, when the main character and his brother set out into the woods to hunt a mysterious creature devouring the town's livestock, the main character killed his brother.

The story has been praised by Kate Beaton and Scott McCloud for its pacing and atmosphere. It can be read here. There is a reading here by ProZD.

His Face All Red contains examples of:

  • The Ace: The older brother, who is strong, handsome, and easily liked.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The narrator is a quiet, shy guy who offers to hunt a beast that's been terrorizing the village... and then kills his brother. And no, it wasn't self-defense or a Mercy Kill or anything like that. It was murder, plain and simple. And he never expresses any remorse for this act — he only starts freaking out when the double arrives.
  • Cain and Abel: The protagonist is the Cain, admitting on page one that he killed his brother.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The two brothers pass a huge, dark hole in the woods, which smells of lilac. Guess where the younger brother decides to hide the body?
    • After killing his brother, the younger brother brings back a bloody piece of the older brother's coat, claiming that it was all that he could find of his brother's body. When his brother reappears from the woods days later, his coat is not torn. A subversion: this doesn't actually lead anywhere.
  • Comforting the Widow: It's implied that the younger brother did this with his brother's wife before his brother's sudden reappearance.
  • Dirty Coward: The narrator hides from the beast he offered to hunt, then jealousy and resentment drive him to kill his unsuspecting brother when his back is turned.
  • Eldritch Location: The Hole that smells of lilac. The Younger Brother dumping the Elder into it seems to be what incites the second half of the story. In Old English folklore (particularly Norfolk and its surrounding areas) White Lilac was considered to be unlucky, associated with death and fae, and by extension people being tricked, taken away and never returning. If that's the way the story is being told it adds some irony in the Elder Brother returning from the woods, and a much more sinister meaning behind his behavior of digging (lilac lures in the fae) and ostracized the person who know he should be dead. This interpretation also doesn't bode well for the Younger Brother when he goes back into the Hole in the woods...
  • Face-Revealing Turn: The older brother's double that comes out of the woods seems to refuse to ever look directly at the younger brother. Eventually the younger brother's conscience drives him to go back to the hole in the woods where he left the older brother's body. He finds the body still there, facing away from him... then the comic ends with the brother's body turning its head to look at the protagonist.
  • Gainax Ending: What was the other brother digging? Which one was his brother? Was the one that returned from the woods a Doppelgänger or something similar while the real body was in the hole the whole time with a Ghostly Goal of vengeance? (Or is there any chance that it's the other way around, and the younger brother shot a doppleganger in the woods only for his real brother to emerge days later?)
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When the younger brother kills the older one, the focus changes to the body of the slain wolf, and everything turns red for one panel.
  • How We Got Here: The story starts the older and younger brother at a party, with the younger brother telling the events of the week up to that point.
  • Infinite Canvas: The page grows longer while they're in the woods. Also inverted on a couple of one-panel pages.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The older brother has a good laugh at how the monster was just a common wolf... not realizing how resentful his younger brother has become at the idea of being humiliated in front of the town... (Of course, this doesn't justify murder on the younger brother's part.)
  • Ironic Echo: "Came from the woods." (most strange things do), first said about the beast, then said about his brother.
  • Left Hanging: The protagonist climbs down the hole to see if his brother's body is there. It is, still covered in blood. It turns to look at him, presumably with hostility. The protagonist's candle gutters out. The end.
  • Mind Screw: Why is the "fake" brother digging? What is it? Is the dead brother alive or undead? Was it really a wolf that killed the animals?
  • Minimalist Cast: We've got the narrator, his older brother, the older brother's wife, and random townsfolk who fill out the background. Plus whatever the hell the "fake" brother is. That's it.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Every character is drawn with normal eyes except the younger brother, whose eyes are soulless and blank.
  • Nameless Narrative: The characters, apart from the protagonist, are "my brother" and "his starry-eyed wife."
  • Nightmare Face: The older brother's face when the younger brother returns to where he left the body, aided by the stark minimalism of the depiction of his gunshot wound is this.
  • No Ending: See Left Hanging for further details.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The first half of the story runs purely on this, light on gore and heavy on tension. The last third, however...
  • Not Quite Dead: The older brother is either undead or has somehow pulled this at the end of the story. Possibly. There may be any number of other explanations.
  • Psychological Thriller: The younger brother has spent a lifetime being a Butt-Monkey and watching his older brother succeed in every way that he's failed and be beloved by their town for it. One day after it happens again, he snaps and kills his brother in an attempt to steal credit for a heroic deed. Then, to the younger brother's complete incomprehension, the older brother seems to be alive and acts like nothing ever happened. The younger brother starts freaking out, unable to sleep, unable to enjoy anything in life, questioning if he's going mad. Remove the possible supernatural elements from the story and you could have a Hitchcock thriller.
  • Red Is Violent: When an act of violence happens, it is depicted by everything going red for one panel.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Older brother and younger brother, respectively. The older is an outgoing, brave, physically capable sort who is friends with everybody. The younger brother is quiet, shy, and timid.
  • The Resenter: The younger brother. Especially when he thinks about how everyone will be grateful to his brother when they return and talk about how the older brother killed the wolf—and then laugh at the younger brother for hiding in fear.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The younger brother is a poor and lonely weakling of a man who's derided and laughed at by the rest of the town when he says he'll find the beast wrecking their farms. The elder brother is a more prosperous, brave, and handsome man who is admired by all.
  • Spotting the Thread: The younger brother is the only one in the town to notice that his older brother's coat is undamaged, despite the fact that the younger brother brought a bloody scrap of the coat back to "prove" his story. Not that this helps any.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: One possible explanation is that the younger brother has gone insane from guilt of trying to kill his brother, a la The Tell-Tale Heart. Even he lampshades this. But nothing is ever confirmed.
  • Title Drop: "I remembered his limp legs... his face all red."
  • Unknown Rival: The older brother truly seems to have no idea how much the younger brother resents him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator speculates at one point that he might be going mad. There is one section where the narration and the visuals clearly don't match up. When the brothers find it was just a wolf, the narration says "we laughed," but in the picture, the younger brother clearly isn't laughing.
  • Villain Protagonist: We see the entire story through the eyes of the younger brother, who killed his older brother due to jealousy and resentment.
  • Wham Line: One to open the story. As the younger brother stands in a bar, watching his older brother joke and drink and laugh with the other men of the village, these are his thoughts:
    Younger Brother: This man is not my brother. My brother has a cottage with a hawthorne tree and a lilac bush. And a plump wife with starry eyes. My brother has a fine coat, a vest the color of moss, and a way with people that makes them trust him. This man has all those things. (And my brother's face. His handsome face.) But just last week... I killed my brother.
  • Wham Shot: A twofer. The younger brother travels to his brother's makeshift burial ground. He finds the body. Which then turns to look at him.
  • Youngest Child Wins: The younger brother tries this. The admiration for his brother is transferred to him for supposedly killing the wolf, his brother's wife seeks comfort in his arms, and he sleeps easily. Then his brother comes back and everything falls apart.

Alternative Title(s): Face All Red