Publisher: Comix Tribe
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Iain Laurie
Letterer: Colin Bell
Colours: Megan Wilson
Release Date: 17th December 2014
The dizzying downward spiral of stomach-churning horror that has been And Then Emily Was Gone reaches its finale here, and to say that the final chapter lives up to the hype would be a gross understatement. Fiona has made the journey to Tallyman Holm to seek out Bonnie Shaw and find her best friend Emily, followed a short way behind by the deeply troubled Greg Hellinger, still reeling from the discovery about his visions from the previous issue. All of Lees and Laurie’s disturbing pieces have been moved into position, and all that remains is to see if the creative team behind this series can stick the landing – as if there was ever any doubt.
Rather than being merely confined to the periphery and a few brief, fleeting appearances, this issue gives us our first ‘proper’ look at Bonnie Shaw. In horror movies, actually getting a good look at the ‘monster’ can often be an underwhelming experience, with the threat and uncertainty usually proving to be more scary than the actual beastie itself. Not so in this case. Bonnie Shaw is every inch the creepy, unnerving presence he has always been, even with the full glare of the spotlight shining on him. His calm demeanour and matter-of-fact delivery adds an extra layer of unease to the proceedings, and Laurie’s depiction of him rises to the occasion; all razor-sharp smiles and lank, straw-like hair.
I’m not going to dig too deeply into the resolution of this series – such as it is – but suffice to say that the way Lees wraps things up sheds an entirely new light on the whole story, and all-but demands an instant re-reading of the previous four issues to put everything into this brand new context. As part of the recent interview with our very own Ross, Lees said that he wrote the ending with the knowledge that “at least half the people who read it would most likely hate it”, and while I can understand where he’s coming from, I honestly can’t see anyone who has read the previous four issues expecting things to be tied up neatly with a happy ‘Hollywood’ ending. This is a bleak, unsettling, question-raising finale, and is all the better for it in my opinion.
As always, I have to add the proviso to my review that no, this series won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m sure that the creators are fully aware of – and content with – that fact. Laurie’s uniquely grotesque visuals and Lees’ disturbingly abstract narrative aren’t necessarily going to appeal to those looking for a ‘normal’ comic or a clear-cut story with a beginning, middle and end, and yes, some of the characters and concepts within these pages are a little ‘out there’, almost like the product of an intense fever dream. Therein lies the innate appeal of this series, though – this isn’t normal, this isn’t just another horror comic, this is nothing less than a nightmare brought to life by a creative team working together in perfect unison. Lees’ haunting dialogue, Laurie’s unmistakable visuals, Megan Wilson’s gloriously muted colour palette and the slick, professional lettering of Colin Bell all combine here to make something truly special, a comic that deserves to be seen by as many wide, shocked eyes as possible.
And Then Emily Was Gone has gradually grown from a quirky, unsettling black and white horror comic I picked up at a local con back in 2013 to a polished global juggernaut that ranks right up there as one of the very best horror comics of 2014. Actually, scratch that, as one of the best comics of 2014, period. Merging surrealist Lynchian horror with worryingly believable ‘local folklore’, Lees and Laurie have managed to capture something truly special here; a series with depth, a series which merits deeper discussion and dissection, and – most importantly – a series which will crawl under your skin and stay there for a long, long time to come.
All five issues of And Then Emily Was Gone are currently available on Comixology, with a graphic novel collecting the whole series planned for release in January.
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