"Touching Evil: Volume One – The Curse Escapes" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Beardo Comics
Written and Illustrated by Dan Dougherty
Colored by Wesley Wong and Kanila Tripp
2016, 240 Pages
Ada Mansfield has been given a gift...or rather, a curse. She can kill someone with a single touch, so long as they're evil. The problem is, she has no way of telling who is evil ahead of time. She could shake someone's hand and they'd drop dead. There are powerful men who want this ability for their own and they're willing to stop at nothing to get it. That's only part of Ada's problems. Her teenage son is a bit of a trouble maker. What if he's deemed evil by the powers that be?
Touching Evil has a fantastic premise. The elevator pitch is something that immediately grabs your attention, filling your mind with possibilities. There are many questions about this curse, such as where it came from and why it exists. Those are almost completely unnecessary for Ada's story, as you get so wrapped up in her life and how this strange yet deadly ability tears it all apart.
Writer / artist Dan Dougherty spins this web around Ada that is fascinating as it unfolds. You can't look away as the various players vying for the power to kill with the slightest touch close in on her. Each chapter reveals new secrets, leading up to an incredible, jaw-dropping finale. The twists and turns make the book difficult to predict. It's constantly surprising as we weave through the story.
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Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Touching Evil does not occur in the land of the living. It's where these poor souls end up when Ada touches them. They suddenly wake up in a void of total darkness along with a small piece of their surroundings from when they died. Imagine for a moment that you're standing in your driveway and then a split second later, everything but your driveway has disappeared. The world has been drawn into a never-ending sea of black. You're all alone...until the curse takes another life. This bleak non-existence is the most horrifying version of the afterlife imaginable.
Dougherty's depiction of this captures a feeling of hopelessness. There's a great shot of the first man Ada kills as he trepidatiously takes a single step off of the floor out into nothingness. This isn't a “one small step for man” moment. It's a sensation of stepping off solid ground into the great unknown.
The character designs pull through so much emotion on their own. You see the worry on Ada's face as she struggles to figure out what is happening to her. This turns to anger and determination as others start moving against her to steal her newfound powers. Although the facial expressions are great, the characters are often standing in awkward positions, as if they were posed instead of moving naturally. This gets much better as the book goes on, especially towards the end where the action really picks up.
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In flipping back through Touching Evil, I'm amazed by how well each main character is developed. This is a dense book with seven chapters full of content. It never feels like there's too much. Dougherty keeps your attention from the jump, pulling you deeper and deeper into the story with each page turn. There is nothing in the comic that feels extraneous. Everything is there for a reason and it helps to strengthen the story.
Touching Evil builds a vast tapestry of mythology from a single simple hook. What if you had the ability to kill any evildoer with a single touch? What would others pay to harness such a power? How many people would you kill...or attempt to kill? Would you exile yourself for fear of accidentally killing someone? Who's deciding who's evil? Are there layers to evil? All of these are still questions that are running through my head and although we don't get specific answers to them, the comic wholeheartedly delivers a fantastic plot and expressive, detailed artwork. This is expert level storytelling that blends drama, thrillers, and so much horror.