"Prolife" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dusk Bunnies Comics
Written by Mike Eshelman
Illustrated by Brian Heddleson
2015, 28 Pages
It's a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl. Girl gets pregnant with some douchebag's kid, then goes off to a strange church until she gives birth. Boy suddenly realizes he loves her and heads out to tell her, only to find some crazy horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the church. It's basically the plot of every other romantic comedy.
Prolife takes its time getting to the scares, developing the characters first and establishing how close the two are. Karen and our narrator (who I don't believe receives a name) are best buds from when they were kids. Despite the constant contact, they don't realize they love each other until years later, which feels like a bit of a stretch given how inseparable they appear.
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The introduction of Living Harvest Church is rife with foreboding. You can tell right away that this is too good to be true. They offer all these great perks for pregnant women looking to give up their child for adoption. Karen isn't completely cut off from the world though. She still speaks to the narrator frequently and even shares the specific date of her delivery. There's a hint of Rosemary's Baby throughout Prolife.
The finale is pretty heinous, not to mention incredibly gruesome. It hits suddenly and even though we had all that dread building up throughout the entire issue, it is rather surprising. The time spent building up the characters pays off a bit as you're somewhat emotionally involved, although the romantic angle between them still comes through somewhat stiff.
The major problem I have with Prolife is its execution. It's not a traditional comic. Instead, it's more of a picture book. Each page includes a paragraph of narration and a handful of images showing what's going on. Comics work best when the words and pictures gel together to tell a story. The idea being that you shouldn't have to explain something that's happening in an image because that's what the visual medium is doing for you. In a super hero fight, you don't have to have a character say he's punching someone when the picture is him punching someone.
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Much of the narration could have been done with the images from artist Brian Heddleson. He conveys emotion well between the characters, which adds to the relationship between them. The setup of the book does him a disservice. Additionally, we only get the narrator's side of events, which is normally fine, however there are literally no other voices since there isn't any dialogue. Much can be shown with a turn of a phrase.
Prolife has a disturbing ending that can rock you to the core, but falls short in its delivery (no pun intended). I'd love to see what this book would look like reworked as a “traditional” comic. As it stands, it's an unusual read with an awkward flow.