The Abaddon by Koren Shadmi (writing and art)

The Abaddon by Koren ShadmiThe Abaddon by Koren Shadmi is a horror story of existential dread: A man knocks on the door of an apartment, asking if this is the open house for a room to rent. He meets three out of the four housemates right away, as they are all relaxing in the living room. Unfortunately, when asked his name, he can’t quite remember it, and instead says to call him, “Ter.” Thus starts a surreal story in which questions without answers are the norm. Why are the windows covered up, for example? What happened to the guy who had the room before him? Why is the rent set at whatever he wants to pay? Why isn’t there a lease? And why does “Ter” have a bandage on his head?

Ter tries to sleep, but cannot turn out the light in his room, and he’s haunted by dreams of being on a military firing range. His sleep is soon disturbed by his peculiar roommates: a drunk Vic won’t stop playing loud music on his guitar. And the story turns horrific when he picks up Shel’s cat and kills him in the sink’s disposal, making a bloody mess. When Shel goes after Vic with a knife, Vic knocks it out of her hand, and the knife nearly hits Ter in the face. Finally, Vic calms down in an absurd fashion: Bet gives him a bottle of milk and feeds Vic to pacify him. Ter is immediately ready to leave. There’s only one problem: The front door won’t open. There’s not even a keyhole for a key. Bet tells him the door rarely opens. And thus begins a story roughly based on Sartre’s play No Exit.

Memories are patchy in this story. None of the roommates can seem to remember anything from before they arrived. Soon, Ter cannot even remember how long he’s been in the apartment. He’s haunted by fragments of memories of war. He wants to escape, but he’s stuck, along with his roommates, with nothing to eat and only coffee and beer to drink. Nobody seems to get along. Another roommate is spurned by Shel every time he makes a sculpture of her from some strange pink substance pouring from the pipes in his room. Each roommate, in turn, seems to irritate the others for a variety of reasons: Ter, for example, accidentally crashes into Bet’s room when she’s dressing after he follows a duct that he thinks will lead him outside the apartment. Vic tries to throw a surprise party for Ter, but with no guests, the roommates sit around, frustrated to be stuck together, though Ter seems to be the only one actively trying to get free of the apartment.

Ter eventually will escape to a certain extent, but only to be trapped in new apartments. He runs from apartment to apartment, with each situation more absurd than the one before it. Is this a story about ghosts? Bet seems to believe they are all dead souls haunting an apartment (from some sort of hell?). Or is this a story about P.T.S.D., Ter having had terrible experiences as a medic in the war? Nothing is resolved, and the story gets stranger with each twist. No, this is not your typical horror story, but it’s horror of a type, I suppose: How much of our existence is just waiting around, trapped with others who share our fate? Will we keep trying to make sense of our lives, or like Bet will we give up even trying? The Abaddon is a confusing, but engaging comic, and I recommend it precisely because of how unusual it is.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

    View all posts