"The Vessel" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Approbation Comics
Written by B. Alex Thompson
Illustrated by Amanda Goebel
Additional art by Juan Romera & C.J. Camba
Colored by Russell Vincent Yu & Lea Jean Badelles
2015, 120 Pages
Luke is a quiet, autistic boy bounced between his single mother and her sister as they try to make ends meet. Things get complicated when Luke suddenly starts talking like a grown man with completely different mannerisms. It turns out that his body is acting as a vessel for murdered souls, allowing them to gain vengeance before moving on from this world. His psychologist Oliver has taken a special interest in Luke and is working closely to help him, even if that means becoming an accessory to murder.
The Vessel works with a premise that's like a twisted version of Quantum Leap, although there are a few oddities. For example, the souls that jump into Luke have been dead for ten years. You'd think they would be more recent than that. What have they been doing for the past decade?
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Additionally, Oliver's acceptance of this whole situation comes all too quickly. He seems to have a number of different specialties; working as a child psychologist, utilizing art therapy, and allegedly a focus in sleep disorders (although this is only mentioned once and never seen again). After he flips through a book recommended by the first soul inhabiting Luke, he becomes an expert in death, spirits, and possession.
One could argue that Oliver has his own tortured past that he's trying to work through and maybe that's why he latched onto this strange case. Unfortunately, the big reveal The Vessel works towards can be seen a mile away. The other twists and turns pack more of a punch, but they make it obvious where the final one will be coming from.
Another oddity is Oliver's relationship with his wife, Cathy. She should be more of an important person and play a larger role, but Oliver often pushes her to the side and doesn't share much with her. She's treated more like an accessory to the story, brought in to act shocked or annoyed on occasion before fading away. She's supposed to be such an important part of Oliver's life but it really doesn't come through that way.
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The artwork throughout The Vessel is pretty good. There are no monsters or supernatural creatures, just normal human beings. The artists express emotion – or the lack thereof – well. Oliver and Cathy look and feel like your average American couple and conversely, Luke looks like a creepy little kid. His mannerisms and expressions change when he's possessed by different spirits and that comes through in the artwork. He can convey a sense of wisdom, looking like an adult in a child's body. There are, however, some occasions where the characters appear flat or positioned awkwardly.
The Vessel has some great concepts but falls through with too many odd choices and situations for the characters. There's only so much you can suspend your disbelief about something. That sounds ridiculous as I was willing to accept that a small boy would get possessed by spirits to carry out their vengeance, but I have an issue with how everyone reacts to it.