It’s time to meet more of the Harcourt family, but we don’t get to spend too much “getting to know you” time as an unexpected event pushes our narrative into its main thread. Despite an awkward ending, this issue sets us up for progression into our main plot, which only has one issue left to not only enter a whole new world, but resolve a lot of hanging threads.
Written and Lettered by Brendan Cahill
Illustrated by Jason Federhenn
Colored by Josh Burcham
What’s a little family quality time without some family drama? As we get to know more about the Harcourts and the challenges they face, they are confronted with tragedy that was anticipated, but not so soon. Decisions that could have been debated thoroughly become hastily made, some with a little help from powers beyond the human plane. Teenage Violet also makes a decision of her own, to spend more time with her older relatives and learn more about the birthright her great-uncle has left her…and her grandmother as well.
Family. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. Especially when your family has an occultist in the family tree who isn’t too much longer for this world. And just happens to be filthy stinking rich. In the middle issue of this trilogy, we meet more of the Harcourt family and their assorted crises. Cahill does fine work with writing and lettering this narrative, particularly at moments when Violet and her brother overhear the parental bickering. In a small handful of bubbles, text transitions from distinct words to finely handed scribbles. You get a sense from the word bubbles in several panels that the parents are still arguing, but the substance of their debate does not matter — the activity alone causes trouble within their offspring. It’s a first (for me) to see a writer also take on his own lettering, and I wonder why we don’t see more writers letter their own books. The writer has a unique, intimate relationship with his/her words, and can translate the visual interpretation of those words best.
While Cahill starts and develops his worlds well, he seems to have a problem with endings. The final panels, with Violet overhearing her parents’ heated debate over her decision to stay at the estate, felt anti-climactic to me. For a story steeped in the paranormal, I expected a more sinister, edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger — but it’s a relief to see a writer not fall down that typical trope. The revelation that this series is only three issues troubles me. Cahill creates situations that are universal to many readers with troubled families and moody teenagers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the debut issue and its potential. I sense that there is so much to be tapped here with Edward’s legacy for his grand-niece. I fear that we are only scratching the surface of that legacy if this plot opens and closes in such a short span, or that Cahill will try to cram too much story into a final issue, leaving readers confused and shortchanged. I remain hopeful that there is a second arc to follow after these three issues, whether it be a direct continuation of Violet’s story, a prequel exploring Edward’s relationship with the supernatural, or something different altogether. It’s too soon to close the door on this world. I want more!
Writing concerns aside, Jason Federhenn’s artwork is most enjoyable. He’s taken his influence for every character from anime with large eyes, light shading for depth, and hair with minimal amount of texture and maximum shape. Edward Harcourt bears a passing resemblance to Sean Connery or Patrick Stewart; it wouldn’t be a casting stretch to bring him on board for any live-action film or series adaptation. His sister Edwina also bears a passing resemblance to Meryl Streep in character from the film The Devil Wears Prada, a regal grande dame with hints of her sinister agenda. (Aside to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.: this would be a great original movie or series. I’ve given you some great casting ideas here.) Violet looks perfectly mid 1990s grunge goth: combat boots, dark hair with a rebellious pink streak, pale skin, plenty of plaid. At the same time, she still is a teenager, which Federhenn transmits perfectly with broad smiles, wide eyes (particularly in the presence of her Boppa), and an age-appropriate (read: not over-sexualized) body.Continued below
The aspect that my eye drew to most was color. There is purple and its variations everywhere. Violet’s wardrobe bears the color of her name. The night sky and grand rooms of the mansion take indigo and wine hues. Edward and Violet’s favorite album has a cover with primary background of purple, pomegranate, and magenta. Similar palette exists within Edwina’s wardrobe. Purple is a rare color in nature, one that has sacred, mystic meanings. Purple conveys passion, a third eye, imagination, and creativity. It’s no surprise that Violet and her grandmother, while in different stages of their relationship with the supernatural, would be attired in purple. But why clothe Edward, the one the reader is led to believe is the most versed in the occult, in a red bathrobe? Is that a subtle red herring to distract the reader from the true master of witchcraft in this story? If so – well-played, Mr. Burcham.
There’s only one issue left to find out the true gift Edward has left to Violet. It’s not enough.
Final Verdict: 6.6 – Artwork provides deep and meaningful symbolism and beauty for the eye, but too many concerns remain that this story will be rushed and awkwardly finished, given its short run.