The Webcomics Weekly is back in your life, and it is never ending. I could’ve gone with some Don’t Worry Darling references as well, but did anyone really watch it?
Reviewed by Mel Lake
This week’s webcomic comes with a warning on most chapters for violence and disturbing content — take it seriously. “Never-Ending Darling” might be one of the most consistently violent comics I’ve read for Multiversity. In fact, violence is essentially baked into the premise, so please go into this one expecting lots of blood and psychological torture. There is a murder in almost every episode, which is often shown on the page. It also heavily features gaslighting, specifically of a woman in a relationship, which may be triggering to folks. Be mindful of your limits!
In the near future, cloning technology has developed to the point that diseases and injuries can be easily cured. By registering your DNA with the company called Biox, headed by Geunhu Ji, humans can essentially live securely with the knowledge that they have a backup body in case of emergencies. Geunhu’s girlfriend of five years, Ha-im Yun, thinks that she has a pretty decent life, even though she’s unable to find a job and her mother is endlessly critical of her choices. That is until she discovers a note from herself saying that she may be a clone created by her genius boyfriend. When she investigates, she finds a body in Geunhu’s house that looks exactly like her. Along with her best friend Yeongji, Ha-im resolves to take down Geunhu’s evil cloning operation and stop him from constantly killing her clones.
The first time Geunhu kills Ha-im, it’s shocking. By the tenth, it’s less shocking in the fact of the murder itself, but because he keeps coming up with even more heartless and cold ways of killing her. Each time, she wakes up the next day as a new clone with no memory of the previous day. He tells her that she drank too much or that she’s stressed, but eventually, Ha-im discovers a way to preserve her memories and transfer them to the new clones. Ha-im is resourceful and brave despite her seemingly hopeless situation, which makes you root for her just as much as you want to see Geunhu punished for his cold-blooded kills.
This story reminds me a little of the recent movie, Don’t Worry Darling, both because of the title and the essential element of a woman manipulated by her romantic partner. It’s vile in both cases. But unlike the movie, we don’t get (as of episode 14), much of an idea as to why Geunhu is who he is. Like Yagami Light of “Death Note” fame, he simply seems to be a sociopath. I’m not sure if I prefer it that way or not, because although I enjoy a bad guy who is simply bad for bad’s sake, I’m not sure if that kind of villain can sustain a long-running series. As it is, though, Geunhu is cartoonishly evil in a way that’s both deliciously dramatic and deadpan. He threatens Ha-im’s mother and her best friend, knowing exactly how to manipulate her into giving in to his demands.
Geunhu’s deadpan personality is accentuated by the art style. It would be easy to see it and think it’s simplistic — and it is — but the simple lines and angular character designs work together to create an atmosphere of dread. The character’s eyes can seem soulless and totally blank while committing unspeakable acts of violence, and the contradiction is chilling. Visually, the minimalist style reminds me of “House of Five Leaves,” a manga by Natsume Ono. Having been a big fan of Ono’s somewhat strange style for years, I find this one compelling but can understand how some readers might not like it. The only webcomic-y touch here is the repetition of a “beep, beep, beep” sound effect used when Ha-im wakes up each day as a new clone. Otherwise, the strip relies mostly on action and cliffhangers to keep you reading.
One criticism of the comic I would have is that it occasionally dips into a different point-of-view without much warning. The transition is usually clear, but it happens so rarely in the early episodes that it can take the reader out of the story. For example, most of the comic is presented from Ha-im’s point of view, but sometimes we’ll see Geunhu’s thoughts for scenes where she’s not present. It can be jarring to switch back and forth when the change happens within the same episode or scene. But since this is a fairly complicated story, sometimes scenes from other characters’ points of view are necessary, so this is a very minor gripe.
I’m not usually one to recommend trauma porn or straight-up gore, but I think this comic skirts those definitions by showing a central female friendship and by having Ha-im grow into a capable and remarkably well-adjusted person for a clone who keeps getting murdered. I would classify this as a cross between a dark psychological thriller and horror. “Never-Ending Darling” touches on the ethics of cloning but as of episode 14, doesn’t make the science or debates behind cloning a major part of its story. Instead, we focus on the twisted machinations of a man who feels so entitled to a woman’s body that he created backup versions of her and wants to mold her into the perfect wife. It’s the stuff of nightmares, but also a compelling read, as the women do their best to combat his scare tactics and take him out.
It’s a bit twisted, but I enjoyed the episodes I read so far, and I’m curious to see what kind of cat-and-mouse games happen next.