Beast of Burden

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In Emily Carroll’s digital comic “His Face All Read” the reader is presented with a story of the narrator’s guilt and paranoia when his brother returns to their town 3 days after he was killed. The brother had been murdered by the narrator after he killed a mysterious beast plaguing the town’s animals. The brother never finds out what exactly happened to the beast or his brother, though evidence in the text signals that the beast had taken the form of the brother.

The actual killing of the brother is not seen, the act is shown with a landscape shot with a red filter. Because the death of the brother is not explicitly seen raises the suspicion that he was not killed when the narrator presumably shot him. The brother was “killed” by the narrator (his face all red with blood), but given the narrator’s look of cowardice for most of the comic, there are indications that he has little experience with firearms. This leads to the idea that he may not have killed his brother when he shot him, only fatally wounding him. The 3 day gap from the woods incident to the return of the brother is intentionally left open to interpretation, but given more textual support the reader could construe the newly returned brother to be the beast.

If one assumes the beast is not just a wolf, and possibly a shape shifting creature, it is plausible to believe that the beast could have taken the form of the brother after the incident, arrived back into town, and assumed the role of the narrator’s brother. Though the logistics are not entirely laid out, I believe this is the case when the brother’s coat is considered.

When the narrator goes home from the woods he takes a torn, blood soaked piece of the brother’s coat with him, yet when the brother returns the coat appears brand new. No one but the reader and the narrator catch onto this detail, “And I was the only one who noticed…his fine coat, it wasn’t torn.” If the beast had somehow taken the form of the brother, and tried to recreate him, then the coat would have been re constructed as well.

The vagueness of the writing, and the omission of scenes shown to the reader are intentionally left open to interpretation, part of the atmospheric horror that the comic strives to make the reader feel comes entirely from the reader’s imagination. When one takes into account small details scattered throughout the story it is clear that fan theories, when formulated with enough evidence, are endless when it comes to the fate of the brother. In reading the comic, I found that the only reason I could give for the brother’s return was the beast’s acquisition of the brother’s form.

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