Writer: Skottie Young; Artist: Jorge Corona; Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu; Letterer: Nate Piekos; Editor: Kent Wagenschutz.
*Terms that may be useful:
Dark Romanticism: a genre of horror characterized by supernatural elements and dark, picturesque scenery.
Action-to-action transitions: panels that present a subject progressing through a single action.
Image Comics’ The Me You Love in the Dark #1 conjures up the same magic seen in this creative team’s former triumph, Middlewest. Skottie Young and Jorge Corona give us our protagonist, a painter named Roni, who retreats from the city to a Victorian home in a rural town. An exercise in finding inspiration, Roni seeks solitude in order to create new pieces for her upcoming gallery show. The resulting first issue of this tale gives us a cozily claustrophobic (I’ll explain the oxymoron later) narrative that follows Ro’s first few weeks in her new home. Plagued by artist’s block, Ro repeats her creative process day after day and turns her back on a blank canvas day after day. Such is Ro’s plight that she begins bemoaning aloud to the ghost rumored to occupy her new home. This is all well and good...until the ghost answers.
Image Comics markets this title as an enjoyable read for fans of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, a tagline I do not take lightly (Gaiman's American Gods is like my Catcher in the Rye). To my surprise, this claim proves to hold weight. The Me You Love in the Dark #1 is a beautiful first entry in a series that promises Dark Romanticism* horror that utilizes a show-don’t-tell approach that keeps you engaged with every single panel. The writing, art, and coloring operate in a symbiotic relationship, fueling each other to create an eerie but enticing experience.
Young’s dialogue is sparse throughout the book, which keeps the narrative tight. The only interactions Ro has with other (living) people are quick and serve to supplement the narrative with the hows and the whys. The rest of the writing concerns Ro’s musings to herself as she wanders her new home, still not unpacked and with no progress to show upon the canvas. These moments are particularly fun as they give us insight into not only Ro’s frustration, but also her personality. Witty and a bit eccentric, Ro certainly takes her place among others of her ilk in the horror genre: Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice and Christina Ricci in Casper, I’m lookin’ at you.
Corona’s art is claustrophobic (in a good way). Panels give us close-ups and action-to-action transitions* of mundane acts that are repeated throughout the book. The repetition of pouring a glass of wine and putting a vinyl record on the player lends importance to Ro’s creative process — as she does these things every time she sits to paint — and slowly becomes rote as the book goes on. The claustrophobia sets in as Ro becomes trapped in this routine with nothing to show for it, just as we are trapped in this routine with her. This culminates in an impactful moment when the routine is broken and the supernatural elements of this book come out to play...though you’ll have to read it to find out more on that front.
Beaulieu’s coloring really steals the show for me. Deep hues of browns, yellows, oranges, and purples command the mood throughout this book, lending the “cozily” to my previous description of “cozily claustrophobic” (told you I’d explain it). An eerie ambiance permeates every panel, keeping you in suspense as you wait for the inevitable supernatural reveal. Ro’s studio is of particular visual note, as it’s backdropped by a floor-to-ceiling window that seems to curate only that light which reflects the artist’s mood. Sterile white light reciprocates the blank canvas it illuminates, denoting Ro’s creative impotence; hazy purple light marks the twilight of every passing day, casting deep shadows that are as foreboding as they are beautiful. The dynamic art/color combo paints an almost dream-like atmosphere that pairs with the writing in a symphony of creepiness.
Buy. This. Book. I have no idea where this story will go and I believe this is one of the biggest reasons to keep reading. Rather than making a narrative mess of things, this book knows what it’s doing and is taking its time in doing so. This creative team’s firm command of ambience will draw you in, the Henry James-esque tension holding you in its embrace with every turn of the page.
Pick this book up when it hits shelves August 4th. Grab your copy from your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP or from Comixology! For further magnificence from the one-two punch that is Skottie Young and Jorge Corona, pick up the trade paperback of Middlewest from Comixology as well!
Now, this title is blatantly and poignantly aimed at fans of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. In the spirit of following the same themes of Dark Romanticism, I recommend (if you’re a fan of the genre) reading King’s Bag of Bones and both Gaiman’s Coraline & The Ocean at the End of the Lane, both available on Amazon.