Publisher: La Baguette Noir Press
Writer: Chris Robertson
Illustrator: Scott Beveridge
Cover Artist: Andrew Kelly
Release Date: 25th April, 2015
Maidenstone, the latest offering from Aberdeen-based Baguette Noir Press, takes us to Garioch in the northeast of Scotland to weave a bleak, unnerving story of a young girl struggling to come to terms with the death of her father. Doing her best to hold her family together in the wake of her father’s untimely – and mysterious – demise, writer Chris Robertson gradually introduces us to Lucy Maitland as she struggles to find her way in a community that her dad always said had nothing in it do to but “fight and fuck”.
Robertson’s dialogue is realistic throughout, capturing the feel of the region while still managing to stay easily staying accessible. Lucy’s family are each established reasonably well, from her grief-stricken mother to her troubled, pothead brother, even if we don’t really delve into any of them particularly deeply. Plus, the enigmatic new arrival to her world who appears during the course of this issue is filled with an inciting sense of mystery.
The art here is provided by Scott Beveridge, whose rough, shadowy, black-and-white style only helps to enhance the bleakness of Robertson’s story. Occasionally his faces can be uneven and inconsistent, and occasionally the composition and proportions of his characters can seem more than a little ‘off’, but his style is one that definitely requires the reader to look at the sum of the parts rather than the parts themselves, and the overall effect of his grim aesthetic definitely hits the mark effectively.
My main criticism of Maidenstone is that it takes a little too long over the course of this first issue to really show its hand. Beveridge’s scratchy visuals and Roberston’s introspective narration both give the feeling throughout that something isn’t quite right, but aside from the first and last pages of the book, we aren’t really given any indication of just what that something might be. Obviously there’s a risk with first issues of giving the game away too soon, but I’d still have liked to see a little more of a hook to draw readers back for subsequent issues.
That said, this is still an impressively engaging read, and features a compelling protagonist dealing with a mystery that she herself may not be fully aware of yet. The bar for Scottish horror has been set incredibly high by the likes of And Then Emily Was Gone, but Maidenstone adopts an entirely different approach, providing a more grounded and decidedly less surreal take on the genre that proves to be every bit as effective, so far at least. Definitely the most focused and distinctive of Baguette Noir’s output thus far, and while it’s undeniably a little rough around the edges – possibly intentionally so – Maidenstone clearly has the potential to develop into something truly special. You can count me in for the rest of this series, that’s for sure.
You can buy copies of Maidenstone #1 from Forbidden Planet and Plan 9 in Aberdeen, as well as from http://baguettenoirpress.bigcartel.com