Kat Somerville struggles with her sense of personal imperfection while adjusting to the perfect town of Comfort Notch. What secrets lie hidden there? Find out in The Autumnal #3 from Vault Comics!
THE AUTUMNAL #3
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artist: Chris Shehan
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Adrian F. Wassell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 25, 2020
Previously in The Autumnal: Kat and Sybil have to wait a night before they get the keys to Kat’s mother’s house. Until then, they’re homeless, and it’s raining. Kat is almost overcome when a young man offers her the keys to his junk car, at least for the night, if she doesn’t want to accept it as a gift. They’re late for Trudy’s funeral the following day; she was buried even before the pastor arrived. When they get to the house, two people are there, cleaning and doing yard work and Kat sends them away. Sybil is excited; Kat is overwhelmed with memories. To fit in, they rake up the leaves, and Kat encourages Sybil, as well as two passing boys, to jump in them. This earns her a slap in the face from their mother.
GETTING OVER THE PAST
The Autumnal #3 opens with Kat trying to fit into life in Comfort Notch. Still, she can’t help but feel the town has a surface veneer hiding a rot underneath, the way a rock can hide a bunch of bugs. Kat sends Sybil off to school, takes the car, and heads off for a day out of town, a day where she can feel more normal. She finds a bar where she drinks a little much and gets into an altercation. She then wanders into a tattoo removal shop.
Serendipity leads to strange places. Rob, the tattoo guy recognizes the band on Kat’s shirt, and she shows him the tattoo on the back of her neck that she would like removed. He finds out she’s from Comfort Notch and mentions he’s had a couple clients from there, people who seemed in a hurry to leave town. Kat keeps talking and almost breaks down. She is on an emotional edge. She’s gone from a life full of problems to one where everything seems almost insanely pleasant.
He brings her back to reality, connecting tattoo removal scars with emotional scars. Mistakes can be undone, he explains. But that doesn’t mean you should forget you made them. They agree on a gradual plan for her to come in as she has the money.
When she gets home, Sybil soon comes home from school, excited about the drawing she has made, a drawing of Clementine, a woman who lives in the trees. We’ve seen hints of her, and childhood rhymes, in earlier issues. This triggers some memories for Kat who crushes the drawing and is immediately apologetic. And then, out of the blue, Kat learns from Sybil that the man who gave them his car (Aubrey Dobson), and who happens to live across the street, has died.
His sons are the boys in the last issue. His wife is the woman who slapped Kat. At the funeral, she blames Kat for her husband’s death. Her sons let slip that he choked to death. On leaves.
Sybil finds her grandmother’s photo albums in the basement. As the glue comes loose on the family photos, causing them to fall like leaves, Kat realizes that her mother looks happy and even affectionate. As she starts to question her own memories, Sybil digs into the later albums of Trudy’s newspaper photos, pictures of events in town, pictures of a major fire…
MEMORY AND REGRET
The art of The Autumnal #3 is lovely. Much of it takes place in Comfort Notch, the town with the perfect surface that hides something vaguely sinister. Its beauty and sterility mingle in scenes of normal businesses and immaculate neighborhoods. Even though she may have been born here, Kat is the quintessential outsider now. We can see that she knows what to do to fit in, but we also see the strain behind her eyes as she feels that it is not working. She is the one who turns over the rock to find the bugs beneath, and that’s a powerful image emphasizing the disquiet.
There is some brilliant use of color in this book, particularly with the red-orange of falling leaves. We first see them at the funeral, brilliant dashes of color shining through the gray of rain. After the revelation of Mr. Dobson’s death, the transition from funeral to basement is framed with a vignette of falling leaves. The color is picked up in the trunk that the photo albums are kept in, as well as the bricks of the chimney. Finally, we see it in the pictures of the big fire in town. This thread of color draws us in, giving us the subconscious feeling that these things are somehow related.
BOTTOM LINE: DISQUIETING AT ITS CORE
I like that The Autumnal #3 features a mother and daughter who have experienced some trauma and who approach the apparent perfection of their new life in different ways. Things that seem so normal here are also so weird – like Clementine – that they put me on edge with wondering what is hiding beneath the surface.
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The Autumnal #3
Comfort Notch appears to be better than perfect until a surprising death occurs.