Friday, January 04, 2013

Hopeless, Maine (Volume 1)

Personal Demons
Tom & Nimue Brown

I was really looking forward to this graphic novel release from Archaia Entertainment, since I love these sort of Gothic supernatural comic books, and since the last webcomic from this genre that they chose to put into print, the excellent Gunnerkrigg Court, fast became one of my favorite series of all time.  So, yes my hopes were high for this book, which is perhaps why I felt a little more let down than usual when I read this book that was frankly, unremarkable. 

The story follows Salamandra, a little girl who wields powerful magic, and is brought to an orphanage, where she is lonely and finds herself caught up in the supernatural goings-on of Hopeless, Maine.  Salamandra's backstory isn't fully explained, but the hints we've been given about it are rather ominous, and we get glimpses of things like demons that her parents left behind.  Unfortunately, Salamandra is just sort of boring, and no other characters are really flushed out, so we're left with little to care about in this story, even if the events had been exciting. 

The main plot revolves around a girl that only Salamandra can see, who becomes increasingly mean to her until Salamandra is forced to take drastic measures to protect her fellow orphans. The events play out with little imagination, and no real surprises.  And on top of the bland characters and poor storytelling, the art is flat as well.  Most of the time, it's just very muddy, the pages varying shades of brown, green and gray, with little of interest in the Gothic environment that we haven't seen a million times before.  I think that the glossy, high quality pages that Archaia used here were actually to the detriment of the art for once, as it highlighted the lifeless coloring and made the dark pages difficult to read by lamplight.  I appreciate the little touches of supernatural creatures littering the panels, and I do like some of the designs of creatures and demons that I saw, but that certainly couldn't save what is an overall forgettable book.  If you're looking for a good supernatural all-ages story to get lost in, skip this one and go with Courtney Crumrin or Gunnerkrigg Court.

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