As this week sees a collected edition of John Lees & Iain Laurie’s And Then Emily Was Gone get a release I thought I’d catch up with the final 3 issues of this 5-parter.
While issues #1 & #2 set up the mystery of Emily’s disappearance and the resulting investigation by friend Fiona & ex-police officer, Greg Hellinger…….it all seemed to be pretty normal with the odd strange element or grotesque monster appearing in dreams….but the story takes a turn from issue #3 onwards.
The investigation on the Island of Merksey is now drawing us in further into a nightmare world that seems more & more uncomfortable as each issue progresses. The unknown and the unbearable need to know more combine with the deep horror elements that question what the characters are seeing let alone us the reader and we’re left feeling uneasy…….but then for a horror comic…..that’s the goal.
The search quickly shifts to tracking down Bonnie Shaw in the understanding that this will inevitably lead to Emily as well but John’s intricate tale twists and turns to mess with that fairly simplistic idea. Introducing new characters who are either locals who are willing to help or locals who are in their own way grotesque characters gives an extra element of distrust for ANYONE on the island…….something that John seems to revel in as he messes with your head in what to decipher by yourself from each issue of the story.
Iain’s art is something that grew on me pretty quick as it suits John’s story particularly well and in these 3 issues he seems to be far more expressive & able to let things run as wild as he can. The dark characters we know and the disfigured strangers we’re being introduced to have an instant presence as they take form with an ever-present anchor to the real world via Fiona, Greg & Emily’s dad to some extent….although Emily’s Dad has his own “issues” across the entire run. Bonnie Shaw may represent the classic villain of the story but it still feels like there’s more threats to be worried about than JUST him. Vin is still present with his occasional appearance as he heads to Merksey adding an extra factor to mess with your heads, an extra unknown to throw into the mix that John does amazingly well.
There’s no air of going through the motions or ticking the boxes in any of these 5 issues – instead it’s a rare glimpse into madness that just happens to be in comic book form and that’s down to the combination of John & Iain. Grim in places as demanded by a horror themed book but always with a slim glimmer of hope to grip onto and carry you on into the next issue. It seems to build to a conclusion pretty well but then flips that on it’s head by throwing in another surprise twist and leaving the story open-ended for more…..something we may well see in the Free Comic Book Day issue #0 that’s being released in May.
Another change to the release is the addition of colour and while I initially didn’t think this was the way to go with it……it works because of how well Megan Wilson’s tones & shading capture the scares & surprises. It gives it a more rounded feel and that additional element of realism that emphasizes the head-fuck that the story actually is. Colin Bell returns on lettering duties to round off the A-Team behind the book (I’ll let them argue over who is BA) and the entire 5 issues are a journey into & through madness with a horror mystery played out on a Scottish Island with real style. The team combines to gift us a tale and show us how to create a setting that makes you grimace…..but never look away.
Check out the Comix Tribe for more info too.