Filed under: Comic Reviews, Vertigo Comics | Tags: Antonio Fiso, Denise Mina, Hellblazer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Usher Family, Vertigo Crime
As part of the Vertigo Crime series of Graphic Novels and very much a mature title – it’s no surprise that this dark & twisted tale will make you appreciate just how “normal” your own family are in comparison.
We have the Usher family taking centre-stage in this release as the parents, Ted & Biddy, Grandma Martha, kids William & Amy and adopted son, Sam all get along in a regular family setting – I’m lying here, there’s nothing regular about this family and they’re as far away from the Waltons as you can get without going all serial killer. The story opens with a one-page/3-panel scene where Simon is being interviewed and drops some hints at the mystery/plot we’re delving into.
A switch to a hospital and we ease into our story as the abused girlfriend of the Usher’s downstairs neighbour makes her way home after having her most recent injuries tended to. The girlfriends return home intermingles with the Usher Christmas dinner as they struggle to be in the same room as each other and deal with the eruption of another domestic dispute from their neighbours. A much more series dispute this time as the crashing and shouting is held at bay by the Usher family’s perseverance to get through another Christmas. When all reaches a crescendo of noise followed by silence we’re thrown into our first real mystery as both neighbour and girlfriend are found brutally murdered.
A disturbing sight for a disturbed family but this also allows them the chance to buy out the downstairs apartment and knock-through into one big house. An ex-murder scene was never really going to sell quick anyway and this gives the family much more space to get some distance between each other…..or so you’d think.
We’re thrown from hospital, to Christmas table, to house development and then into counselling. Not an entirely unexpected place for us to end up given the frosty relationship between Ted & Biddy but this is soon another area in the Usher life that’s not quite clear cut as tensions rise when discussions turn to Biddy’s alleged affair. I’m sure the Usher family could get on Jeremy Kyle at this stage but the thing is, things just get worse. Grandma Martha gets hurt in the home-come-building site and the mystery surrounding the death in the other apartment soon seep into the Usher half of the house.
There’s some family in-fighting as the biological kids fight for their parent’s attention and try to point out the fact that Sam is adopted as often as possible. Meanwhile Biddy struggles to deal with looking after her mother, someone that only Sam, the adopted member, seems to even bother with. Throw in some drug taking, some failed business ventures with that and you’re next step would be family breaking up – right??….wrong. We then get a sinister turn in the story as we get some apparently random events happening – a house fire in one of the rooms, an apparent suicide and some strange goings-on in the building site part of the house……all of which are linked to a darker history of witchcraft in the area.
It’s never as simple as that though and the remainder of the book sees some further deaths, some fairly severe in-fighting and a twist that I didn’t see coming. All broken up with brief glimpses of Sam’s interview that started the whole book and the penny drops on how this all fits together in the last section of the book as the real plot unfolds following the big reveal of that twist.
A first graphic novel for writer Denise Mina, whose previous comic’s debut saw a 13-issue run on Hellblazer back in 2006/2007, is a strong addition to her award-winning crime novels and well worth a look for a break in the superhero heavy world of comics/graphic novels. The plot and themes may well be on the darker side of family life and that can be a bit bleak but the style of writing seems to draw us into wanting to see how this family meltdown will play out. Similarly, the black and white art from Antonio Fiso helps bolster these themes with an ever-present darkness even in the few upbeat scenes we get – all adding to the mystery and disturbing reveal of that plot twist.
Denise is also involved in the comic book adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and after reading this and seeing the original Swedish films – I’m keen to read how that works out.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment