Writer, creator, artist: Ray Fawkes
Letters: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This visually stunning series, another solo production, the brainchild of Fawkes (Batman: Eternal, Constantine) is nothing short of a work of art. Those familiar with his work will instantly recognise the watercolour washes that lavish each panel. Unsurprisingly, the art isn’t the only talking point here; Fawkes has crafted a twisting narrative that centers on the sometimes fawning behaviours of a neat core of disturbing characters.
So, what’s the premise? Fawkes himself has stated that the central theme to the series is the dual nature of our world, where rare beauty is often juxtaposed with raw savagery. And this is where the series sets the beauty of music against the horrid contrast of the behaviours of the musicians: ‘A visceral horror story in lush, ornate, beautiful dressing.’ And this is partly why this book works so well. No-one expects a book this beautiful to tell a tale of disturbing horror that leaves the reader questioning themselves and the people they hold so dear.
The story follows a group of musicians and hangers-on who appear to be holding issues deep within their psyches. When we meet the characters again in this issue, we are instantly reminded of their flaws. This time, their flaws are pronounced but their bizarre behaviours aren’t always matched with explanatory dialogue or thoughts. Gratuitous sexual behaviour becomes just that – gratuitous. We are left wondering why. This apparent lack of character development does, however, add to the complexity of the issue, nay, series. The plot takes on a puzzle-like sheen, with repeated reads revealing more each time. There is an abstract visage to the book and the frames don’t always add up to a plot, as such. The reader is at times left to work it all out for themselves, which I found commendable, but others seeking a pacier, more clinical plot, may find frustrating.
The art is presented in watercolour swathes, sometimes detailed with vague facial expressions, or details in clothing for example, but at other times looking much more abstract. The colouring has created, when needed, stark contrasts between blood smears and plain backgrounds, and at other times vague differences between pastel figures and light hues within the backgrounds. Speaking of backgrounds, detail is pretty much non-existent. Don’t expect to be putting your magnifying glass to much use, but this does allow us to wallow in the character depictions and to try and decipher the action and intent. The scares don’t come in ‘jumps’ or visual violence but rather in the extreme nature of the behaviours, That said, a sequence where Eleanor vomits glass would feel at home in any Cronenberg script.
If you’re looking for a more abstract take on horror, or if you want something deeper than ‘slash and bleed out’ style shlock, pick this up. Expect to re-read a few times and then face the long wait till issue #4 to tackle those unanswered questions pickling your mind.
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Review written by Arun S.