cover image Satan’s Kingdom

Satan’s Kingdom

Robert Sergel. Secret Acres, $19.95 trade paper (148p) ISBN 979-8-98558-631-2

There’s something sinister in the water in this anthology of eerie and ironic stories by Sergel (Bald Knobber). One man’s quest for a selfie by a roadside marker for Massachusetts’s enigmatically named Satan’s Kingdom sets off the title story’s uncanny sequence of events. “Pretty boring. Just some trees and a creek,” he texts to a friend moments before his doppelgänger floats past, face-down in the water. Violence—blunt, grisly, a little slapstick—follows inexorably, and the unsettling denouement leaves more questions than answers. Subsequent pieces involve a young Nikola Tesla, dog poop photography, spite houses, Napoleon Bonaparte’s tormented older brother, and a misbegotten, hallucinatory babysitting stint. Sergel relishes the peculiar historical footnote, and many stories read as mysterious—even Lovecraftian—outcroppings of the “old weird America” surfacing in contemporary suburbia. His fastidious linework features stark, high-contrast black-and-white, with shades of gray permitted in only one story. Like Nick Drnaso and Charles Burns’s comics, Sergel’s panels can give the impression of action caught in the beam of a flashlight, injecting a nagging uncertainty into the pervasive sense of foreboding. A vexing book of uneasy missives from the threshold of the absurd, this one’s hard to shake. (Oct.)