"A Second Chance at Sarah" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Neil Druckmann
Illustrated by Joysuke Wong
2014, 96 Pages
Graphic novel released on August 20th, 2014
The idea of a man making a deal with the devil in an effort to save the woman he loves is not a new one. It's been explored countless times over the years. Neil Druckmann puts his own spin on it with A Second Chance at Sarah and manages to tug at your heartstrings while scaring the crap out of you.
A Second Chance at Sarah picks up with the title character in a coma after just giving birth to her son. Her husband John looks on powerless. He soon discovers that his wife made a deal with a demon and it was time to collect. Desperate to save her life, he makes a deal of his own, but it's more of a bet than a contract. John is sent back in time to the day that Sarah made her arrangement with this evil benefactor. He has 24 hours to prevent the transaction. If he fails, his soul is forfeit too. Here's the tricky part: he's in his high school body with all of his memories intact and he has to convince the woman who will become his wife not to do something she doesn't know she's going to do yet. Awkward.
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The main problem with a story like this is that it would be incredibly difficult for John to explain the truth to young Sarah. It makes no damn sense. It's like that cliché question about what you'd tell your past self, knowing what you know now. You'd spend the entire time explaining who you are, how you're doing this, and why you look the way you do in the future that you'd never get to the point where you're sharing your wisdom. Druckmann first confronts this issue head on, but then gets around it entirely with emotion. John sees his dog which has been dead for years and his reaction is so genuine that Sarah goes for it.
Even after convincing Sarah that he's come from the future to save her, John still has his work cut out for him. He has no idea as to what will cause the deal to be made. At this point in their lives, John and Sarah were not even friends. They went to the same high school but they didn't even talk to each other. Although he went on to marry this woman, he doesn't know every detail about her, as evidenced by the fact that he had no knowledge of this arrangement.
A big part of this book centers on love and loss as emotions. John is faced with the thought of the love of his life dying because of a deal she made with a demon years prior. The fact that she could die without ever seeing her son is heartbreaking, so you understand why John jumps through the hoops he does in order to try and save her. He puts everything on the line and risks his child becoming an orphan.
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Joysuke Wong's artwork is clean and pure. She can make you nostalgic for your teenage years as John takes this strange walk through memory lane. Everything looks perfect, like nothing can go wrong. It's almost hard to believe that Sarah will soon make a choice that would change her life forever.
Wong has a talent for subtlety as well. She can say so much with a single glance from a character. There's a flashback at the beginning of chapter two that has John and Sarah getting into an argument before he heads off on a business trip. She wants him to stay at home as she's due to have the baby any day. Just stay and hang out with her for a little while. She knows what's coming and that the demon is coming to collect soon, but he has no idea. The look on Sarah's face is full of sadness that John would have taken as a reaction to the fight but it has a far deeper meaning and it can break your heart.
You never actually see the demon that causes all this trouble. It appears as a cat or as a disembodied voice, but its true form is never revealed. This is a great Rosemary's Baby approach, as the versions of it that I was imagining were far worse than anything Wong would have put on the page. It actually works better with the flow of the comic, as the appearance of a hulking demon with huge horns would have stood out like a sore thumb.
A Second Chance at Sarah is a new take on a theme that has been explored repeatedly over the years, but it doesn't feel like something you've seen before. Druckmann was also the creative force behind The Last of Us, so the guy knows a thing or two about good story telling. This comic is no different. Throughout the whole experience, you'll find yourself thinking of what you would do if you were in John's shoes. It's instantly relatable, so it feels very real and the emotion can get to you quickly.
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