And Then Emily Was Gone is a strange new face in horror comics, and possibly one well worth your time, depending on your artistic tastes.
Previously, in And Then Emily Was Gone: Ex-cop Greg Hellinger was booted from the force for seeing monsters everywhere he looked. He was approached by a teenage girl, who reported her friend Emily’s seeming abduction by a local boogie man known as Bonnie Shaw. Hellinger has agreed to accompany her to the Isle of Merksay to investigate… since the monsters disappear when she is around. Also, there’s a hit-man doing hits, and a strange man building a box. We probably don’t want to peek and see what’s in the box.
TEETH IN MY MIND, GNAWING AWAY
In And Then Emily Was Gone #2, Greg Hellinger and Fiona explore the extremely strange environs of the Isle of Merksay, part of the Orkney archipelago. The result is some Twin Peaks level creepiness, as every one of the inhabitants seems to have some perverse secret or strange tic. It’s hard to tell what is hallucination in And Then Emily Was Gone and what is reality. A character’s eye may spontaneously weep blood, while a seemingly fleshy pneumatic messaging tube descends from the ceiling – and no one says boo about it. It works well to put the reader into the mindset of Greg Hellinger, questioning whether a thing is reality or insanity, or perhaps both. The presentation melds creeping dread with moments of real shock, all while advancing the story at an even clip. This is efficient horror; the atmosphere is built without sacrificing the plot. All the narrative pieces are working together. John Lees also provides a one-page story at the close of each issue, about a local legend or some horrifying individual, and each one has been delightfully chilling while building the backstory of Merksay.
AN AULD HAG LIKE YOU
Another creepy element in And Then Emily Was Gone is that everyone in this book is a straight-up horror to look at. Some readers might find Iain Laurie’s art ugly, but it is a grotesque look that works effectively in a horror book like this. It seems to come from an underground comix lineage, rather than anything going on in mainstream comics – maybe reminiscent of Shaky Kane’s retro styling or the cartoony grotesqueries of Derf. The art is very flat, heavy with lines and shadows, almost child-like. But it clearly isn’t resultant of any amateurism. Laurie’s layouts are smart, as he plays with the borders to either provide regular sequential storytelling, or allowing a page to dissolve into chaotic madness. I doubt you’ll ever see Iain Laurie working in this style for anything like a Big Two superhero comic. It’s way too challenging and difficult. But for the nightmarish world of horrors and hallucinations in And Then Emily Was Gone, it delivers what is necessary.
BOTTOM LINE: DON’T LOOK IN THE BOX (BUT NO, DO LOOK IN THE BOX)
Forgive the tangent, but I read an interview once with Hajime Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan (the manga/anime about giants running around eating people). He said something about how he doesn’t find his work scary, because he doesn’t think giants are actually scary. I don’t think giants are scary either, but when I read Attack on Titan for the first time, one of the first depictions of a titan eating a person caused a very visceral reaction in me, all out of measure for what was on the page. I experienced the same thing reading the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone – Bonnie Shaw looks almost like a child’s drawing, but it provoked an unsettling feeling that stayed with me after I’d put the comic down. Good art, good horror, should provoke a reaction, and And Then Emily Was Gone certainly did in me. And Then Emily Was Gone will appeal to readers ready for something off-beat, challenging, and disturbing. Fans looking for a different brand of horror should definitely check out this comic. But if you’re wary, be warned: it is not for the faint of heart.