BY NADIA GERASSIMENKO
The Ticking by Renée French
Edison Steelhead is birthed by a mother who doesn’t survive the delivery, and his head is as large and strange-looking as his father’s before his surgery. With sadness and shame, his father tells him, “You have my face. So we’ll go away. Where nobody can see it.” They go live in a lighthouse on a secluded island, away from people and social stigma, where the only other dwellers are animals and insects and inanimate masks Edison has to wear to protect rare incoming visitors from his “monstrous” face.
The Ticking is a very heart-rending tale of the relationship dynamics between a father who loves his son but, at the same time, is ashamed of him; consequently, it also features a son who is desperately seeking for his father’s approval. It’s about making sense of the world while feeling neither cared for nor loved unconditionally. It’s about learning to accept and love yourself as you are even when others close to you don’t.
French’s style of conveying the story is simple but evocative and compelling. All her panels had been drawn in graphite giving The Ticking a very detailed, shadowy, and haunting feel. Descriptions and dialogue appear outside the panels in occasional minimalistic wording perhaps to express that images speak louder than words—and they do.
Whispers by Joshua Luna
Whispers is a solo debut graphic novel by Joshua Luna of the Luna Brothers (creators of Ultra, Girls, and The Sword) for which he is not only the writer but the artist too. The story follows Sam who is an anxious and socially awkward young man. Having a severe case of OCD doesn’t help him to be taken seriously by his few friends who only put up with him instead of trying to understand him. As he drowses off one night, he experiences an astral projection; his soul is able to leave his body and travel during his sleep. And when he thinks of a close one, he is able to visit them, read their mind, and direct their decision through his own thoughts.
As cool as his out-of-body experience may seem at first, he also sees appalling things that seemingly normal strangers at day do during the night. A man who kills and rapes innocent children. Another man who kidnaps women, strips their clothes off, and keeps them locked up in confinement together for weeks with only water as their sole sustenance. Having been exposed to such horrifying revelation, what will Sam do about it?
Luna’s Whispers feels like a complete cinematic experience with the timely fade-outs, the fitting blurring of a character to make emphasis on another character, the realistic portrayal of the artwork, the philosophy behind the supernatural psychological horror drama. Likewise, Sam is a very believable and relatable protagonist. He’s imperfect and struggles coping with his germaphobia and the consequential anxiety, but that is not all he is as the readers come to know throughout the story. He has accumulated major traumas. He genuinely cares for his loved ones in his own way. In spite of everything, he learns to exercise control and free will, especially when faced with a trying dilemma. Should he do the right thing? Is the right thing ethical?
Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu
Zoe’s life sucks. She works as a booth babe during product promotion events where men constantly grope her, and lives with a boyfriend who only works odd jobs and uses her and farts. Her luck changes when she eats her tabbouleh at lunchtime in a park of an apartment complex. She sees a man looking at her from his window and smiles at him. She gets an urge to go to the bathroom and, seeing that his apartment is the only one on his floor, buzzes him. She soon learns that Thomas is a well-renowned author—to everyone except her. But why are his window curtains always closed? Why doesn’t he ever go outside? Read how interestingly and surprisingly his secret unravels.
Exquisite Corpse is a very entertaining and hilarious read. I especially laughed out loud when Zoe was doing her business with an open door talking to Thomas like there’s nothing to it. And when Thomas responds with such pride and panache that critics consider his books ‘modern-day fables,’ Zoe is unimpressed—“Oh, fables. Like for kids. Cool.” Bagieu’s graphic novel is fast-paced and has three plot twists that no reader can possibly predict beforehand.
I also like the ode and reference to the surrealists’ technique of collaborative writing—in which one writer passes their work to the next revealing only the end of their writing as inspirational cue or giving them a specific writing rule to follow such as “The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun.”—in the title. It’s also very symbolic to Bagieu’s story.
Wytches Volume 1 by Scott Snyder
There’s two types of witches in the earthly realm. Wytches—ancient tall gruesome forest-dwelling humanoid creatures who grant wishes to those who pledge them people, especially fresh, delicious blood of an infant. And Witches—regular-looking humans who have associated themselves with Wytches by pledging their loved ones and being granted wishes—health, beauty, immortality, whatever not. When you’re not running from the Wytches, you should be hiding from the Witches who can be just about anybody whether it’s your parent, your neighbor, or your friend; you can’t trust anyone.
Scott Snyder and Jock, the artist, created a world that is so nightmarish and terrifying yet so human and fragile. Where people with fears and vulnerabilities look the enemy in the eye and say, “You can haunt and terrorize me all you want, but you will never have me.” Or on the contrary, they break down and become puppets of evil. Because feeling love is not enough when fear and want overpower them. But sometimes love is the driving force that keeps one going or that surrenders oneself to save another.
Two peculiarities that make this first arc stand out and so intriguing to explore. The artwork is absolutely stunning and chilling. Each panel underwent an intricate coloring process from a bare image to a composite by adding flat dark colors to the inks, enhancing them by giving them more three-dimensionality, incorporating filters such as zip, paper, and varying spatters. The spatters had been painted manually with watercolor and liquid acrylic on paper then scanned and layered in Photoshop. Also the concept that witches can walk among us as our fellow humans and friends and can pledge us at any moment sends shivers down my spine. It makes me think of It Follows by David Robert Mitchell—something I would never wish to experience in real life.
Nadia Gerassimenko is a Media Relations Manager for Yeti Culture, Freelancer in editorial services, and Assistant Editor at Luna Luna Magazine by day, a moonchild and poet by night. Nadia self-published her first poetry collection Moonchild Dreams (2015) and hopes to republish it traditionally. She's currently working on her second chapbook a chair, a monologue. Visit her at tepidautumn.net or tweet her at @tepidautumn.