There’s nothing necessarily wrong with ‘The Returning’, but at the end of it, it turns out that it’s one of those books that you really wanted to like, but you just can’t really find a proper reason as to why that is.
I’ll elaborate, I’m aware the above is a little cryptic. The notion of the book fundamentally is quite intriguing – in the near future, people who suffer from near death experiences (NDEs) are coming back Changed (note the capitalisation), and committing horrifying acts of violence. No-one knows why. Our main character Beth is one of these people – on psychiatric watch after barely surviving a car accident, she has to deal with the stigma of being a Changed: cops know her . The plot thickens, of course, but we’ll keep how under wraps.
Mutti’s art is decent, if occasionally feeling a touch rushed towards the end, though whether this is to emphasise Beth’s growing anxiety, or indeed an actual result of Mutti rushing is not exactly clear. There are some nice touches here and there, particular in the visualisation of Beth’s NDE, but it’s not anything that you’d write home about.
The writing is a little meandering, and it isn’t really bothered with explaining itself properly – Starr is clearly trying to do exposition through action, and whilst it’s certainly not quantifiable as bad, it does strike as a little bit lazy. There’s also little to pathos to be had with any of the characters – Beth herself is pretty much a clueless high-school popular kid, her Dad generically overbearing, despite attempts to contextualise it within the story, and her pigheaded prom-date a dull, rape-y archetype.
There’s just no hook, nothing that compels you to come back for more – unlike its newly reanimated protagonist, there’s not a whole lot of soul in here, and whilst it’s entirely competent, it just doesn’t pop like the premise says it ought to. The next issue may prove me wrong, but there’s just nothing here to compel me to pick it up.
The writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney