Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chronic Review:  And Then Emily Was Gone # 1
Comix Tribe

Script:     John Lees
Pencils:   Iain Laurie
Color:     Megan Wilson
Letters:   Colin Bell

Emily is a delightfully weird little horror comic.  The story is set in the Scottish isle of Merksay, and the boogeyman of the piece is a local spook named Bonnie Shaw.  When parents get jammed into a corner so bad there's no way out...ol' Bonnie Shaw will appear and offer them a solution.  All he asks for in exchange is the couple's child.

Emily tells her best friend Fiona that she know it sounds crazy, but she's seen Bonnie Shaw.  Emily is so convinced of this, she tells Fiona that she's leaving the island.  Meet me tonight, and we'll leave together, says Emily.

So Fiona shows up at the meeting place and waits for hours.  Nobody shows.  And then Emily was gone.

This is not the kind of story the police are likely to take seriously, at least not the regular police.  So Fiona visits Greg Hellinger, who used to be impossibly good at finding missing people.  That is, until he started seeing monsters everywhere.  Now he mostly huddles into his apartment without pants and tries to drink the monsters away.  He hasn't had a good night's sleep in five years, but you can see why Fiona might think Hellinger is useful.

And that's the crux of the hook.  It's one of those stories loaded with unreliable narrators, so you're never quite sure what to believe.  There are a couple keys to making a story like this work.  One is to build real characters around the madness - if the madness doesn't "pay off", it doesn't matter because the human element is enough to draw you in.  In my opinion, Emily neither excels nor fails at that element.

I would say that the leads of the story (Fiona and Hellinger) are fairly flat...but with some plusses.  Lees did not go over-the-top with Hellinger's character, thankfully.  He's clearly suffering from depression with a side of suicidal tendencies, but that's to be expected when you've been seeing monsters for five years.

Fiona shows some hints that there might be more than just a little girl lurking beneath the surface.  Very subtle hints.

Subtlety is the second element that a good "is there a supernatural element here or not?" story.requires.  Here, Emily does excel.  Emily is gone, so the only witness we have to the Bonnie Shaw part of the story is Fiona.  All of this could plausibly be in a couple people's heads.  Teenage girls run away all the time.  

Except.  We do get to meet Emily's parents... and something is definitely sideways with her father Gordon.  He's mumbling cryptic nothings fit for a psycopath, and he's building a box with ornate Cthulhian symbols on it in the basement.  There's something in that box that he needs to show his wife.  We'll get to see it next issue....

About the art.  We need to talk about the art.  I'm a bit of a cave man, so Iain Laurie's loose pencils don't do it for me.  My rigid perceptions prefer the glossy, illustrative style of a Jamie McElvie, where it looks like the pencil has been gliding across the page like Oksana Baiul.  Laurie's pencils look like they were scratched into the page with an awl.

The proportions are not true to life, (Fiona's eyes are usually right next to her ears) and most people in the book have very weird overbites.  Maybe it's an Orkney islands thing?  I don't know.  I think it's a funny Iain Laurie thing. The loose pencils are not a deal-breaker for me, and to be fair I don't think I'd want a Jamie McElvie drawing this story.  It's not about glamorous, super-hot, L.A. people.  It's about weird backwoods Scottish peasant people.  I don't know who I'd put on here.  Matt Wagner, maybe?  Yeah, he'd be good.

The point is that I'm a cave man, and you probably aren't, so you'll be fine. If you're a horror fan that found yourself enjoying movies like Insidious, Let the Right One in, or May, I think it very likely that you enjoy this comic.  This is not a gory monster comic.  We don't see Bonnie Shaw in this issue, and we may never see him.  That's perfectly fine, in my opinion.  The mystery/suspense elements shine, and that's more than enough for me.

I recommend the book, and really doubt your local comic shop ordered many (or any) of these.  If you want to see how the series turns out, ask your shop to order it for you, and use your Jedi mind powers to make them rack a few extra copies as well.  This comic deserves to be seen by more people. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you've ever seen the movie Napolean Dynamite then you've seen this art before. It's trash looking. "It took me nearly 3 hours to get the shading right on your upper lip. I think it's the best drawing I've ever done for sure." Wow. I seriously could have drawn this comic book. I'm not kidding.