Review – Daphne Byrne #3 (DC)

Publisher: DC (Hill House Comics Imprint)
Writer: Laura Marks
Artwork: Kelley Jones
Colours: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Rob Leigh
Release Date: 4th March 2020

Daphne’s mother continues to visit the occultist Mrs. Swarthmore, placing them in desperate financial peril, while Daphne continues to struggle with the strange things happening around her as the disturbing visions Brother shows her become more solid and her powers grow – with disastrous results. With Brother’s help, Daphne seeks out Mr. Brooke and Daphne’s mother finds herself in mortal peril when Mrs. Swarthmore is revealed to be far more dangerous than some mere charlatan parlour table-knocker.

I’ve had comments from others saying that they’ve found this series to be a bit slow and ponderous, but I personally think that it has been paced perfectly. This is a really well-crafted gothic horror, and as such is all about the build-up and the tension and keeping you guessing as to where it’s going. The greatest horror stories of the last hundred or more years have been the ones that draw you in slowly and set every hair on end one by one.

I also loved the complete and utter sucker punch in this issue. It was a 100% perfect misdirection that moved the story from what, on the surface, appears to be a cross between Carrie and a gothic ghost story, throwing in a little The Devil Rides Out to completely knock you off your feet. Full disclosure, I was so surprised by this change of pace that I actually shouted loud enough to wake the kids, much to my wife’s annoyance. It’s a perfectly timed change, and just as you think you’ve got the measure of what’s going on, Laura Marks throws in a massive, utterly satisfying curve ball.

I still don’t know who, or what, Brother is. I haven’t decided whether he is benign or malignant, and I have no idea why he has particularly latched onto Daphne, but he’s very definitely lifting the veil on a world that is horrifying, dark and twisted. Whether there is sinister intent in Brother helping her to see these things, or whether these denizens of the dark hold any danger for Daphne remains to be seen.

I raved and gushed a bit about Kelley Jones being involved with this project when the first issue came out, and I’m happy to say that I still feel fully justified in every overemotional, squeal of fanboy delight. For as long as I can remember, Kelley Jones has been one of my favourite horror artists, and what he’s producing for this series is both a feast for the eyes and brings Marks’ story jumping off the page.

I will freely admit that Jones’ artwork can be something of an acquired taste, but if like me you were brought up in the first days of Saga of The Swamp Thing, The Sandman, Creepy Presents etc. then this is going to feel like visiting an old friend. As grotesque and disturbing as some of Jones’ artwork is, there’s an incredible warmth and depth in it that is perversely comforting. His work is also beautifully accentuated by Michelle Madsen’s colours, which truly give this the feel of those wonderfully dark and Gothic Creepy Presents stories that I grew up loving.

In my review of the first issue, I suggested that this is a series that might benefit from being read as an OGN rather than a serialised publication, but now that we’ve got to the third issue I’m actually really enjoying it in this format, and whether it’s intentional or not, the break between issues has actually kept me coming back for more.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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