26 July 2013

"And Then Emily Was Gone" Comic Book Review

Fresh off the presses of the vibrant Scottish independent comic-book scene, this comes courtesy of engimatic writer/artist team John Lees and Iain Laurie.

Set in Scotland, it tells the story of Greg Hellenger, an ex-detective whose nightmarish waking visions have cost him nearly everything, as he's set on the trail of the titular Emily - a teenager who vanished on a Scottish Isle under mysterious, perhaps even supernatural circumstances. This is at the behest of her best friend, who has the curious quality of making the nightmares stop. There's also Vin, who has an interesting job, oh yes - and an actual mystery box to be intrigued by (my best guess at this stage is that it's JJ Abrams' head in there...).

It's a genuinely terrific read - Laurie's ever-so-slightly unsettling stylings gives the proceedings a Lynchian, dream-like quality, and Lees' script takes full advantage of its detailed nature, crafting a story where you can't be sure if it's all going to end in grim reality, or an even grimmer fantasy. It's a book that begs to be poured over immediately after you finish reading it, with details scattered about in both the writing and art that threaten us with a complex, disquieting and ultimately satisfying tale to come.

There's also a fascinatingly awful moment of extreme violence that'll completely catch you off guard - bordering on being a darkly amusing anti-joke, it relies on pitch perfect structuring, sly dialogue, and stunning use of contrast to create a most impactful two-page spread that'll stick in your head for quite a while afterwards. It's very much the kind of moment that only sequential art could achieve, and that it's nestled inside such a gem of a story is icing in the chocolate fountain - it's all pretty sweet, and flows magnificently.

The only problem is that it does feel a little slight, but this is down to it being the first half of a first act, so it's hardly fair to hold this against it. The feeling is also a direct result of enjoying it, and craving more - and given that this is indeed a mystery, that's job done, as far as anyone could possibly be concerned. WHAT'S IN THE BOX, GODDAMIT?!

And in such a short space, perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how they've succeeding in creating a fictional horror mythology on a par with the Slender Man for quite how delightfully unsettling it is - flashes of reality interwoven with the fiction to make it just believable enough to make your skin crawl thinking about it, even after you put the book down. I won't mention her here...BONNIE SHAW


Because she isn't real.

She isn't real...



Post-script: If you want to check out John Lee's other stuff, head to his blog here. If you're up for further perusal of Iain's mind to see what monsters lay inside, check out Mothwicke, Powwkipsie and his previous release, Horror Mountain. You're welcome.