"The Book" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Arcana Studio
Written by Erik Hendrix
Illustrated by Amanda Rachels
2012, 104 Pages
Graphic Novel released on January 22nd, 2013
When will teenagers learn to avoid mystical looking texts? And perhaps more importantly, when will they stop reading them out loud? This is the basis for The Book from Arcana Studio, but it has a bit of a twist to it. Instead of finding an ancient tome somewhere, a group of students pick up a DIY travel guide that has been passed from tourist to tourist in Italy. This includes pictures, drawings, and info on places that are off the beaten path. It just so happens that it also includes a few pages from The Dark Book, where a secret sect of the priesthood was trying to contact God by killing themselves. Hilarity ensues.
The idea of this text is pretty cool. Creators Erik Hendrix and Michael David Nelson tie it to the Bible; specifically with Lazarus. Everyone knows the story of the guy that Jesus brought back to life but what happened after that? Did he just go back to his regular life? Or was he changed after seeing the other side? The people that have contributed to The Dark Book are looking to connect with the Divine as they believe Lazarus did. It's a noble effort, but it becomes clear early on that God is not the person on the other end of that phone call.
The characters in The Book are pretty generic. They're your stereotypical group of twenty-somethings that will get killed off one by one. This graphic novel doesn't waste time explaining which one is the jock or the stoner. Instead you get even less details. They can be summed up with descriptions like Basic White Male #1, Token Minority Guy, and Innocent Red Head. They had names, but they don't really matter.
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The only character that seems to stand out is Sebastian and that's only because he's a total fuck up. His dad is some rich corporate executive, so he thinks that gives him an excuse to be a douchebag. The comic opens up with him getting arrested -- in Amsterdam of all places -- using heroin and pot. His father bails him out, but now his friends have to leave Holland and go over to Italy. Oh man, what a bummer that must be. Oh, can you guess which one of them is the first to read the spooky text from their travel guide?
The art from Amanda Rachels is uneven throughout The Book. Certain scenes, such as the opening sacrifice, are rendered wonderfully, but later on things get a little rough. People are often in strange poses or making funny facial expressions. This happens a lot during the action scenes, when you need to know what's going on in the panel the most. Perspective can be off sometimes too, having characters in the background larger than those in the foreground. The ritual that's used in the story involves various symbols being drawn in blood on the walls and floors of the room. This design looked great and very spooky.
The Book tries to take a different spin on the ancient evil preying on young people horror story. It accomplishes this, but not to the fullest extent. The graphic novel is a bit on the short side, so I never had a chance to really care about the characters. I actually wanted Sebastian to get killed because he was just a waste of space. People in Europe should start making little signs that say "If it looks old and creepy, don't read it out loud." Of course, they shouldn't print it on an ancient piece of parchment. Maybe that would cut down on this kind of thing.