Foreboding spirits lurk in the background of these short stories by Emily Carroll. Demons burrow under the skin, a wife seeks revenge from beyond the grave and a young man believes his brother has been replaced by an imposter. These five short gothic stories are fantastically eerie folktales, populated by people consumed by jealousy, fear and loneliness. One of the stories, His Face All Red, first appeared online, and it’s interesting to see it rearranged from its original vertical scrolling incarnation. You can have a read of it on Emily’s website here:
Reminiscent of The Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman, the stories themselves are sparse and brooding, build around a single idea and then told in a personal and matter-of-fact way. Invariably starting slowly before ramping up to an unsettling climax, they are dark, both in shade and content, as isolated characters are trapped in the woods with things they can’t avoid.
The artwork is striking, with bold colours and dramatic lines filling the page as dialogue swirls around the characters, hemming them in. There is something of both Edward Gorey’s work and Kate Beaton’s Hark A Vagrant in the thin linework, while splatters of ink add texture. It can be quite gruesome at times, and the vivid sprays of red are often juxtaposed against plain black backgrounds or white clothes. There is a wonderfully creepy atmosphere that pervades every frame, as even seemingly happy illustrations exude unease behind the scenes, and when things really kick off there is a strange beauty to some of her monstrous creations. The lettering is superb and is almost a character in itself, as ethereal songs drift between frames and haunting voices fill the page with jagged words.
This is a stunning graphic novel that stands out thanks to its poetic spoken-word vibe and moody artwork, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something soaked in gloom and filled with teeth and darkness.