"Hopeless, Maine: Volume 1 - Personal Demons" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archaia Entertainment
Written by Tom & Nimue Brown
Illustrated by Tom Brown
2012, 136 Pages
Graphic Novel released on November 14th, 2012
Despite what some comics would have us believe, not all orphans turn into super heroes. For every Batman and Spider-Man, there are hundreds of kids that end up stuck in orphanages. Salamandra is one such child, but she has a unique situation. She's living in her parents' house all by herself. We don't find out why or what happened to her guardians. A witch named Nightshade finds her and takes pity on the child as she knew Salamandra's mother. Instead of taking her in, Nightshade brings the girl to an orphanage in Hopeless, Maine.
Salamandra isn't a normal child. She has powers, but she's not sure how to use them. Clearly Nightshade should have brought her to Xavier's School of Gifted Youngsters, but that wasn't an option on this small island. Salamandra doesn't like it here, but she can't stay at home. She wants to escape and the new girl that only she can see is encouraging her. As imaginary friends go, this girl is probably the worst. She comes on cute and nice at first, but she keeps dropping passive-aggressive remarks at Salamandra's expense. It becomes clear that she's up to no good.
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The focus shifts from Salamandra struggling to adjust to her new situation in life to stopping this invisible girl. She's a demon and she's preying on the innocent kids at the orphanage. Fortunately by this point Salamandra has found a friend, so she doesn't have to do this alone.
The tone of Hopeless, Maine is very dark and well...hopeless. Everything looks and feels bleak for Salamandra. It's bad enough that her parents are dead, but now she's being teased and manipulated by a demon and living with a bunch of strangers that won't even talk to her. Co-author Tom Brown also illustrated the graphic novel and matched this tone very well. The sun seems like it never rises in Hopeless. It's perpetually night or at the very least dusk. It's a dreary island that is surrounded by death and other creatures lurking in the shadows. There's a scene where Salamandra and her invisible "friend" are on a boat trying to escape. Tentacles break the surface of the water as they sail across. They don't pose an immediate danger to the girls, but their very presence is unsettling.
Each chapter of the book opens with an impressive two page spread. Salamandra looks small when compared to the dank landscape of the area. It really sets the mood of the story. It isn't until much later that there's a glimmer of happiness in the form of a smile on Salamandra's face.
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This graphic novel serves as the first volume of the story. No word yet on the next chapter, but the stage is set for the continued adventures of Salamandra. She can set herself up as an amateur demon hunter. She has the powers to do it too.
Hopeless, Maine really boils down to a story of acceptance. Salamandra is a lost little girl who doesn't fit in anywhere. She falls in with the wrong crowd and makes some bad decisions before she befriends a boy that works at the orphanage. Then they hunt demons. This is the perfect kind of comic to give to a teenager that feels like they don't belong anywhere. Things could be a lot worse than high school. You could be an orphan in Hopeless, Maine.