Klaxon seeps character and a certain uniqueness from Dix’s richly descriptive illustrations. Towing the careful line between creepy and fascinating, the surreal little world of Braintree Road is enticing, with its nightmarish landlord Mr Stapleton, and grim tenants.
The story follows Carlisle in a dull, sepia-toned world, and his search for something to do, when some new neighbours move in next door. Originally, all he wants is to go outside, maybe see if his bike works, just do something other than get high. But Carlisle becomes genuinely interested in his new neighbours, and with them comes the extended influence of Mr Stapleton, plunging the already depressed neighbourhood into a spiral of ever-stranger events – including a boy with a television full of bees, storms of liquorice allsorts, metamorphoses.
All along, Carlisle’s flatmates become ever stranger. Originally a dry, cynical pair – they start to lose their physical shape, then speak only nonsense…This is where Si Spencer’s incredibly minimalistic storytelling becomes quite frustrating. It doesn’t have too much sway over the book. However, when taken with Dix’s artwork, it’s still a satisfying enough read.
All in all, this novel certainly works well as a tongue-in-cheek social commentary. Each character acts as a caricature for the part they represent. Mr Stapleton, the landlord, is garish and overpowering as he invades every space. Carlisle and his flatmates are the epitome of deadbeat layabouts, unemployed and just spending their days high. And the new neighbours are all sweet, caring girls with an overbearing and ill mother – the epitome of damsels in distress.
It certainly harks back to the British idea of the council housing community, when bonds between neighbours are strengthened over hardship. The finale, a half-comical half-seriously dramatic rallying against the landlord works effectively as a metaphor for small, social victories against small demagogues like Mr Stapleton.
It just doesn’t provide the reader with much explanation when trying to read into (or even understand) the plot. Given Klaxon’s nature as an intentionally outlandish novel, the conjunction of very little actual text – and even less of it in English – with the aforementioned chimerical illustrative style, gets difficult to understand.
Clearly Klaxon is designed to be abstract and metaphorical, and it does achieve that aim beautifully. But all this is determined by the reader’s intention when reading a graphic novel. If storytelling is their attraction, then Klaxon may fail them. However, Klaxon excels on its artwork. It’s the illustration that carries most of the weight of the characterisation and plot, along with its formation and development.