"Brielle and the Horror: Volume 1" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Loaded Barrel Studios
Written by Jared Barel and Jordan Barel
Illustrated by Jared Barel
2013, 203 Pages
Graphic novel released on April 16th, 2014
High school is hard enough, but young Brielle also has to deal with a demon that's been living inside her since she was born. Up until now she's been able to keep it in check, but the creature is starting to bust out and things are going to get bloody. Brielle and the Horror, the second (and also sort of first, more on that later) graphic novel from Loaded Barrel Studios deals with this poor girl and what could be the coming of the Antichrist.
Brielle and the Horror has actually been in the making for some time. It began with the first chapter, released as a single issue at New York Comic Con in 2007. Another issue and a one-shot would follow before brothers Jared and Jordan Barel would finish the first story arc in a full-fledged graphic novel. Given the gap between the issues, you can see the creative team grow and improve over time.
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The first thing you'll notice about this comic is the artwork. It's unlike any other funny book as the brothers looked at the creative process as they would a film. Each of the panels are actually photographed using actors and real props before they're digitally altered and illustrated by Jared. This sounds like it would be really lame. Just think of taking a screenshot from a movie and slapping a speech bubble on there. Fortunately, Jared has come up with a great way of making this work. Granted, there are a few rocky sections in the first chapter, but by the second and third, he's found his stride and the artwork looks much more natural. This was also the case with Grey, the team's previous graphic novel.
The easiest way to describe the story is imagine the infant from Rosemary's Baby as a teenager. The main difference is that Brielle has been growing up under the watchful eye of the church in an effort to prevent the apocalypse. Meanwhile, there's an evil organization that is ready to unleash the power lurking within her against the world. All this and she has to deal with boy trouble.
Brielle and the Horror manages to really tap into the fears and insecurities of being a weird kid in high school. It's also surprising that the main character feels so natural, as the book is written by two guys. In many ways, she just wants to be normal or at least left alone, but she might as well be living in the same town as Carrie judging by the actions of some of her classmates.
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The Barel brothers keep several of the important story pieces under wraps for most of the book. They do a great job pulling you in early on with shots like Brielle's stepfather looking at a dead body in his trunk or Brielle having visions of a mauled dog. These happen within the first chapter and it's near impossible not to want to learn more.
Also included in this graphic novel is a one-shot called A Thousand Words. It's a very meta comic featuring the Barel brothers and other members of their team going out into the woods to shoot for the graphic novel. In a very Blair Witch Project setup, they wander into a strange part of the forest and turn on each other.
Brielle and the Horror is a cinematic comic. I'd love to see what Jared and Jordan Barel could do if they were to turn this into a feature film or at least a web series. Jared's art style is unique and as mentioned before, improves as the book progresses. There's some great art direction and a plot that's filled with religious conspiracy. Brielle's story doesn't end here though, as it's left open for a continuation, but her next steps are currently unknown.