The Me You Love in the Dark #3. Writer: Skottie Young; Art: Jorge Corona; Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu; Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot; 3D Model of the House: David Stoll.
WARNING: There are certain to be spoilers ahead, so be warned.
Simply put, I LOVE this title.
Ro has escaped the siren-filled, cement slab of the city to a secluded Victorian home, where she hopes to find a spark of creative inspiration for her upcoming gallery show. Weeks later, amid a horde of unpacked boxes and unfulfilled artistic dreams, Ro finds an unexpected house guest: an ancient being that haunts the home. Ro and this creature begin to form a bond of sorts that is set against gorgeous art, incredible writing, and solid lettering (as well as an unexpected nod to a 3D Designer). Image Comics’ The Me You Love in the Dark #3 releases this week, with a focus on the developing relationship between Ro and the creature. This powerhouse creative team conjures feelings of intimacy where I know there shouldn’t be, and that is the magic of this title. With a blend of Gothic Lit and modern horror, The Me You Love in the Dark entrances the reader with an atmosphere of comfort that just begs to be disturbed.
I'm making it a point to recognize David Stoll for his 3D model of the home Ro moves into. Stoll digitally created the entire house, room by room, and it's this model that Corona uses to populate the story with beautiful and consistent imagery. The house itself is hauntingly gorgeous, with big windows and odd geometry that puts the reader in an odd state of ease. Many panels in this title illustrate empty rooms and negative spaces, putting a lot of focus on the house itself. Having an entire model of the house also allows for multiple angles of perspective in a given panel, many of which reflect camera shots in a horror film. These panels are meant for us as readers, to get us comfortable with the house's layout, while giving us a parallel sense of dread that only Victorian houses manage to balance. This is only one of the many ways that The Me You Love in the Dark communicates with the reader.
In this issue especially, there is a breaking of the fourth wall on the opening page. An outside perspective of the house shows us the music notes that guide us through the front door, a hallway, and finally into Ro's studio. This subtle communication with the reader builds on the themes of intimacy in this book by bringing us closer to the story. We are invited into the home with music and back to the studio, the most intimate room for Ro, and the symbol of her passion and creativity. If the first two issues were Ro breaking down emotional walls and settling into her new house, well...consider her settled. Candles blaze, wine flows, and shadows flicker in a romantically macabre style. Ro has found her muse, and it comes from the darkness.
I have no clue what I'm looking at when it comes to the "shadowed spectre" presented in this book. It is made of, and exists within, darkness. In this issue we are presented a time lapse from the last issue and now we know Ro and this creature are romantically involved (REALLY involved by the end, but hey, I don't judge). Young's writing sells this time lapse immediately. Rather than hit us with the "2 Months Later", we learn about it through the characters' dialogue and their relationship to each other. Writer Skottie Young's show-don't-tell approach is refreshing and shows confidence in himself as well as showing confidence in us as engaged readers. Despite there only being two previous issues, Ro feels like a developed character, and our knowledge of that helps us notice the time jump when her behavior changes slightly to accept intimacy, a contrast to the isolation we've been shown since she moved into the house.
I want to take a moment to truly appreciate Jorge Corona and Jean-Francois Beaulieu for their phenomenal teamwork throughout this title. They know how to use the comics form to establish a moment and its importance. In this issue, one scene comes to mind as an example (pictured above). Three vertical tiers sit on top of one horizontal tier. The left and right vertical tiers contain three panels each that illustrate small elements of the overall scene shown in the middle tier. A brush moves from cleansing water to working canvas amid flickering candlelight, while music and wine wait patiently for the attention to turn to them. These elements have been established in past issues as part of her painting ritual (the candles being a newer addition), and we can see by the bottom horizontal panel that Ro has finally hit her artistic stride. This is her true environment. Corona's mix of bold and splotchy lining pairs with Beaulieu's orange and brown colors to create both intimacy and comfort in the scene above. We are still in the honeymoon phase of the story, and that's what we are meant to see, the perfection of the moment to Ro. A moment that certainly can't last forever...
The Me You Love in the Dark is all about pacing, character, and atmosphere (the holy trinity for horror, in my opinion). The pacing allows us to take our time and understand Ro, so that small changes register immediately. This creative team wants us to notice, and they bring us further and further in by using every tool of the comics form to create intimacy between us and Ro. Fluctuating line work and heavy inking bond with comforting colors to make us feel at home. The house is fully developed and establishes a real space for our brains to occupy as we read. I also must use this chance to mention Nate Piekos' lettering because the shadow creature would be incomplete without Piekos' fringed, black dialogue bubbles and fonts that heighten the creep factor by a mile.
The Me You Love in the Dark #3 releases Wednesday, October 4th. Pick it up from your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP (!!!!!) or directly from Image Comics' website. If you love the work done in this book, go check out Middlewest by Young and Corona from Image Comics as well. Finally, I do my best to highlight the talents of all those on a given creative team. No aspect of comics is easily done and it is a form of many elements. If you also share this opinion, go check out Nate Piekos' recently released book, Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering, from Amazon.
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.