cover image Spa


Erik Svetoff, trans. from the Swedish by Melissa Bowers. Fantagraphics, $34.99 (328p) ISBN 978-1-68396-696-8

A purportedly high-end spa devolves into a grotty miasma of rot and retribution in Svetoff’s satirical skin-crawling grotesquerie of a debut. An unattractive collection of personalities converge at the spa for pampering and relaxation—blank-faced couples, champagne-guzzling corporate bros, and a “platinum package” guest who insists on unattainable perfection—and they all seem chosen for looming punishment. Rendered by Svetoff in heavy lines and with a knack for choice stomach-churning imagery, the atmosphere is a mix of eerie (glassy smiles, people who walk through walls) and disgusting (slimy torrents of inexplicable goo, fly-buzzed corpses). Relatively little happens in terms of a story, but entropy and anxiety steadily amplify against a backdrop of misanthropic class warfare. The spa’s sniffy, thin-skinned director signals snobbery and contempt for his staff, as more obnoxious elites get knocked off by various means (meat cleaver, monster behind a door) while the membrane between reality and nightmare is shredded. Bleak humor makes the odd appearance, like with the creepy twin maintenance workers who act like a more malevolent Three Stooges. It’s like The White Lotus guest-directed in icky-sicky fashion by David Cronenberg and Nick Drnaso. (Feb.)