"And Then Emily Was Gone" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by ComixTribe
Originally published as And Then Emily Was Gone #1 - #5
Illustrated by Iain Laurie
2014, 122 Pages
Graphic novel released on January 28th, 2014
You've heard of people making a deal with the devil. Maybe it's to be rich and famous or something nobler, like healing a loved one. In any case, your soul is what's on the line in exchange. The sleepy island of Merksay, off the coast of Scotland, has a different sort of demon that handles these requests. When Emily's father got sick, her mother prayed to Bonnie Shaw in an effort to cure him. The thing is, Bonnie Shaw doesn't deal in souls. Its currency is children. Now you can probably understand why the title of this book is And Then Emily Was Gone.
The story picks up with Emily's friend Fiona seeking out a detective named Hellinger in an effort to find her. No one believes her because Bonnie Shaw is a myth. It would be like telling the police that the boogieman kidnapped your son or daughter. Hellinger is special because he sees things. There are monsters lurking in the shadows and he's the only one that notices them. He's crazy...right?
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What instantly sets And Then Emily Was Gone apart is that uncertainty. Is Hellinger really insane? Is Bonnie Shaw real? There's definitely something going on in Merksay. The comic deals with madness like a modern day Lovecraft. It seeps into your skin to the point where you're questioning what is real and what's all in a character's head. It's like you're getting a peek under the surface of the normal world for the first time.
Much of this is due to Iain Laurie's artwork. This is an unsteady world to the point that the very panels on the page have a hard time staying together. Very rarely does a panel fit neatly as a regular square or rectangle. The edges are often wavy or completely falling apart. This escalates as the story continues, aiding in the insanity that surrounds Hellinger. He has a dream sequence in chapter three that feels like an acid trip.
The monsters that appear in this book are unlike anything you'll see in modern day comics. They're freakish and twisted, like a cross between a xenomorph and an elder god, with a bit of the Toxic Avenger thrown in just to make it real ugly. This doesn't stop at the creatures though. It extends to some of the characters too. The people here are far from beautiful and several of them are legitimately disfigured.
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While the main story with Emily has a satisfying conclusion, there are a handful of loose ends that are left open. All of them serve to add to the overall craziness of the plot, but I'm curious as to their possible resolution. These range from the assassin with the silly mustache to the factory on Merksay.
And Then Emily Was Gone excels as a true horror comic. It doesn't rely on cheap scares on page turns or blood and gore. Instead it creeps in, settling at the top of your spine and making the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It deals with madness, monsters, and a good old fashioned mystery all rolled together in a terrifying story.