Another exciting debut issue from Black Mask studios, this time looking at the vacuous nature of celebrity but with a distinctly Lovecraftian edge. Read on for our review of “There’s Nothing There” #1, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Patrick Kindlon
Illustrated by Maria Llovet
Celebrity-socialite Reno Selleti doesn’t believe in very much beyond Instagram comments, hipster drugs, and the flash of paparazzi cameras, so when a friend invites her to an EYES WIDE SHUT-type party she goes along mostly for the lulz. But the joke doesn’t feel as funny when she realizes it’s an actual occult ritual, and suddenly she’s seeing things… Horrifying apparitions trying to warn her. ‘RUN.’ Like Darren Aronofsky remaking DRAG ME TO HELL, There’s Nothing There is a stylish & hallucinatory thriller about losing yourself in the bright lights and finding yourself at rock bottom. By your new favorite artist Maria Llovet and Patrick Kindlon (We Can Never Go Home, S.H.I.E.L.D.: Quake).
There’s always a certain thrill when you feel like you’re witness to something or someone great on the rise. What some call undiscovered talent can take on a very personal reaction when you feel like the one doing the discovering. That’s what it feels like reading through “There’s Nothing There” #1 and looking at Maria Llovet’s art. Her loose penciling, free flowing colors and strong inks are a perfect fit for the book’s subject matter, but more than that, Llovet feels like a genuine breakout talent with a keen eye for form and structure.
Has there ever been an orgy in fiction that ended well? There always seems to be some form of occultist ritual at the heart of most sex parties, and the one in “There’s Nothing There” #1 is no exception. The reasons behind the ritual, and the motivations of the enigmatic leader, are kept deliberately ambiguous at this early stage, serving as merely the catalyst for what’s about to happen to our flaky socialite protagonist. Reno is painted as a quick witted, if aimless, Instagram celebrity bored with the world around her. The title of the series, we learn fairly quickly, becomes not only an answer to the question someone would ask if looking for meaning in such a vacuous lifestyle, but a response to Reno herself when she asks if you can see the disturbing figures that follow her around.
This opening issue offers us a glimpse of the journey that Reno will go on, as these scary ghost-like beings start to follow her around (floating, surrounded by bleeding eyes,) threatening to pull her out of her self-imposed social bubble, and yet the overall message that the book is trying to convey is as elusive as the origins of the Lovecraftian menace. In the back matter, Kindlon calls “There’s Nothing There” #1 an ‘orgy of ideas’ and a ‘celebration of the independent space’, and that’s certainly true. Its decidedly NSFW scenes and seeming reluctance to be pigeonholed into any given genre feels refreshingly new and unique. It’s a horror book that uses horror as a sort of backdrop, at least in this early issue. Our point of view character doesn’t actually ‘view’ much of the world around her, so it makes perfect sense that the interesting elements of the world sort of happen around her. She cares less about the eery speech given at the orgy than she does about the paparazzi that may or may not be following her. Still, whether this is a satire on the nature of modern celebrity, a warning about the narcissistic seclusion of the social media generation, or a cautionary tale about only attending orgies with a five-star Yelp review, remains to be seen.
As mentioned above, Maria Llovet is a revelation. Her fashion-inspired style perfectly fits the depiction of a socialite’s lifestyle, but the mannequin-esque rigidity normally associated with that form is replaced with an expressive energy that effortlessly portrays the emotional beats necessary for a comic story. There’s a forty panel, double page spread serving as a montage of a masked crowd in the throes of an orgy, and it’s genuinely erotic, showing just enough in close-up to be seductive but merely suggesting the rest. Llovet’s hand-drawn panel borders call back to that ‘celebration of independent space’ that Kindlon references, but it also helps to bring the page to life in a way that both engages the eye and adds to the sense of unease when the moments of horror occur. Similarly, her coloring choices echo and emphasize the narrative, Reno’s world changing hue as her view of it expands and contracts; the drained palate as Reno awakes from what she assumes is a hangover, in contrast with the heavy inks and deep reds of her nightmarish visions. Llovet also incorporates sound effects really well into her art, the size and intrusion of the letters into the space force the sounds into your head as you read through the page; at one point near the end of the book the buzzer on the front door becomes so loud that it threatens to overwhelm the panels, and the tension that builds in the scene as the characters look at the camera of the landing and realise ‘there’s nothing there’ is palpable.Continued below
Despite its horror leanings and the vacuous nature of the protagonist, “There’s Nothing There” #1 is sharply written, with snappy, funny dialogue that flows realistically between the cast. The tension of the front door buzzer actuating is broken by one of the characters asking why the door is even buzzing in the first place: “were they all out of ‘ding-dong’?” There’s more to the world than is initially revealed here, but that’s almost the point: we’re discovering, at the same pace as Reno, that the world around her not only exists, but contains things far more interesting than her empty lifestyle allows. This issue sets up an intriguing situation moving forward, one that will hopefully be as sharp and as scary as this issue, and one that will showcase more of Llovet’s gorgeous art.
Final verdict: 7.8 – Sharp, scary, and a little bit sexy, “There’s Nothing There” #1 is socialite satire with gorgeous art and a Lovecraftian twist