Ahead of its release by Comix Tribe this Wednesday, I’ve decided to take another look at the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone, the smash-hit Scottish horror series from John Lees and Iain Laurie.
In our initial review of issue one just over a year ago (boy how time flies), Chris talked about the striking nature of SICBA-nominated artist Iain Laurie’s cover, and how it “hits you with a fantastic use of negative space, giving an ominous portrayal of what may lurk inside”. He also felt that Laurie’s art “is a perfect companion to John’s writing, but in its own right tells the story fantastically, with a style that instantly draws you in and almost dares you to turn the page just to see what could possibly be next.” And to be honest, there’s not a lot I can add to that. Laurie’s art is undoubtedly fantastic here, managing to retain his trademark grotesque style while exercising far more restraint than he has in perhaps any of his other offerings. This is an issue that is all about the creeping tension, the vague sense that something isn’t quite right, and in those respects Laurie is pretty much the perfect artist to accomplish this with his twisted, deformed characters and creepy, claustrophobic panels.
The significant difference between this week’s Comix Tribe release and the original copy which currently graces my bookshelf is the addition of colourist Megan Wilson to the mix. I’ll be honest, when I initially heard of the decision to publish this series in colour, I was more than a little sceptical. Part of the main appeal of this book – for me at least – was its bleak, washed-out appearance and menacing use of empty space. The last thing it needed was someone coming in and splashing colour chaotically all over the place, sucking all the charm out of it. Well, as it turns out, my concerns were not only overly dramatic, but also entirely wrong. Not only does Megan’s muted, restrained colour palette avoid overshadowing the atmosphere of the comic, it actually enhances it in several places, adding a renewed sense of horror to Orcadian “Boogey Man” Bonnie Show, and providing Vin Eckhart’s particularly shocking scene with a far more visceral ‘punch’.
In Chris’ original review, he discussed writer John Lees’ transition from the ‘capes and cowls’ world of The Standard, pointing out that Lees “takes to writing a horror book like a dead body to a fresh grave.” He also mentions Lees’ “talent for pacing that leaves you begging for more, and a way of instantly making the lead character both likable and disgusting at the same time”. And once again, there’s not a huge amount I can add to that. At the time of this first issue’s original release on the local convention circuit, Lees was indeed better known for his award-winning superhero series. However, as has been proved repeatedly over the past year, horror is perhaps John’s strongest suit, and his gift for building tension and slowly peeling away layer after layer of increasingly disturbing tension is on full display here. He sets out his stall masterfully in this opening issue, introduces us to the main characters and the underlying premise, then leaves us on about as emotional and speculation-inducing a cliffhanger as you could possibly imagine.
Overall, And Then Emily Was Gone is a perfectly pitched opening to what is destined to become a gradual descent from faintly unnerving horror to gut-wrenching Lynchian nightmare over the next five issues. If you haven’t heard of it and happen to see it on the shelves of your local comic shop, then I strongly urge you to give it a look. And if you have read it before, then I can’t stress enough just how much Megan Wilson’s colours add to this story. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a copy at one of the many conventions John Lees and Friends ™ have attended over the last twelve months, you truly owe it to yourself to grab one of the colour copies. You can thank me later.
And always remember, folks… Bonnie Shaw is watching.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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