Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer & Artist: Ellinor Richey
Release Date: 19th January 2022
The premise of this hefty new graphic novel from IDW Publishing is ultimately a pretty profound one. Junkwraith explores ideas of self-worth, identity, and belonging, and asks what happens when our most precious possessions no longer, well, belong?
In a genre-warping mix of sci-fantasy and horror adventure, if a loved item is not properly recycled and thrown away, the dark energy released can create a “junkwraith”, a supernatural being of great power which seeks to curse and twist the previous owner of said item. Just such an event happens to the protagonist here, Florence. Following an emotional day of ice skating, Flo suffers from an attack of confidence and identity crisis. In an ill-thought move, hurling her new skates into the trash, Flo manifests a junkwraith and sets in motion a series of events which will take her far from home into a strange world of pirates, monsters and rubbish, but with the potential for resolving her fears.
I think this is the first time I have encountered Ellinor Richey’s work, and I must admit I’m rather taken by the look of it. The overall style elicits a weird mix of nostalgia and familiarity whilst also simultaneously putting me in mind of something I just can’t put a finger on. Despite the whimsy in much of the characters and locales, there’s some fantastic depth and world building on display. Whilst it’s maybe not a book I think is necessarily quite age appropriate for my young ones, I can definitely see this appealing to a wide audience. The central story is easy enough to follow but, like some kind of cautionary parable, there’s plenty to dig and root around in. From the conceit that not recycling properly can create a monster to haunt you, to the artifacts left scattered outside the town, one could easily infer some kind of heavy-handed environmentalist agenda. To do so would be wrong as there is so much more to lift here.
Getting back to the art though, there’s a lot to digest. Simple but strong design carries these characters through, with a surprising amount of emotion being conjured from almost nothing, particularly in the case of Florence’s computer assistant Frank. Hands up, as I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for cute robot/mechanical sidekicks. These JuJu, to give them their proper name, give the opportunity for yet more self-awareness and self-reflective thoughts. Each panel seems to be almost doodlelike, inviting the reader to stop and explore. The effect, which is complimented by subtle colours and a lack of sharp vibrancy, gives this a strange ethereal vibe. This is just as well, as there are often bouts with little words which rely on the art to do some heavy lifting.
Overall, I enjoyed Junkwraith but it’s not my usual cup of tea. I think it would be harsh to say that this feels a bit on the comic side of navel-gazing but there is a self-indulgent quality here. There’s a lot going on, and plenty of threads to tug at which some readers may find some frustration with. Whilst I say the story is easy to follow, I’m not necessarily convinced everyone will find this an easy read. For all the adventure Flo encounters, and the questions raised along the way, I’m not necessarily sold on the answers this TPB provides, or in some cases perhaps doesn’t.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster