"Absalom: Under a False Flag" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by 2000 AD
Written by Gordon Rennie
Illustrated by Tiernen Trevallion
2017, 98 Pages
Graphic novel released on July 13th, 2017
Harry Absalom has seen some shit. He's an old detective inspector, specializing in the supernatural. Any time something looks a bit too weird, he's called in. Harry has fought this good fight for years and now it's gotten personal. His grandchildren have been taken hostage by some demons and he has to figure out a way to get them back to safety. Time is running out though, as his body is being ravaged by cancer.
Despite the deck being stacked so high against him, Harry holds himself together well. There are a few moments where you see the cracks, especially when he receives a new photo from the kidnappers featuring his grandkids posing with a different demon. This is an absolutely heartbreaking scene where Harry is at his lowest. Aside from those brief interludes, he's a man on a mission, entirely focused on getting his family back and keeping England safe.
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You learn so much from Harry's design. Artist Tiernen Trevallion draws a man being held together by spit and duct tape. He's been consumed by his job and he wears those hardships on his face. It's old and gnarly. Yes, he's old, but he seems even more so due to the things he's been through. His shirt is half untucked. His overcoat is literally taped together. We get glimpses of him in the past when he was much more buttoned up. The juxtaposition really underscores the terrors he's witnessed.
Speaking of terrors, the supernatural elements in this book are varied and terrifying. Each delves into a different set of horrors, each just as creepy as the last. Writer Gordon Rennie taps into a wide and ever-evolving mythology. If I had to pick one story as a favorite though, it would be the first, “Dirty Postcards.” Harry tracks down a monster who captures the souls of children in a camera by taking their picture, leaving a hollowed husk of a human being behind. The children’s' sunken faces are so unsettling and the creature responsible feels slimy and disgusting. Trevallion did a tremendous job on this tale.
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Under a False Flag is the second collection of Harry's adventures. I haven't read the first, however that does not make this one inaccessible. It's very easy to get up to speed. The book is told in an anthology style with each tale offering a unique new monster for Harry and his team to take on, while also moving the overall story along. It's a perfect balance of serialized storytelling and “monster-of-the-week.”
It's easy to compare Harry Absalom to other supernatural detectives like John Constantine or Cal MacDonald, but that would be doing the character a disservice. Underneath that gruff exterior is a heart. A mangled, cancer-ridden heart, but a heart nonetheless. He must do what's right at any cost, but not if that means harming the people around him. Harry is going through Hell right now in an effort to save his grandkids. He might lose everything in the effort, but it would be worth it for him. It is these flaws that make Harry Absalom such an interesting character and make Under a False Flag such a great read.