Saturday, November 16, 2013

Speak of the Devil

I took a little detour from Gilbert Hernandez Month yesterday, but today I am going back on track.

Speak of the Devil collects a 6 issue limited series that was on The Comics Journal's Best of 2007 list. The story is about gymnasts, family relationships, a mysterious Peeping Tom wearing a devil's mask, and a murderous love triangle. The main character is Val, a gymnast who lives with her divorced father and his new wife. She struggles with this new situation and also dates a boy whose family appears to be abusive. As these young people struggle through their lives, a mysterious stranger is terrorizing their neighborhoods, peeking in open curtains.

This mysterious figure is particularly fixated at staring in at Val's parents while they are having sex. I am not going to reveal many plot specifics, because I think this book relies on a sequence of revelations and escalations in the course of its narrative. But I will say that things take a sinister turn, and the second half of the book is violent and bloody.

The strongest aspects of the book are its pacing and its focus on a small set of characters. It reads like a Hitchcockian thriller, raising questions of psychology and propelled by shocking visual scenes. The story is unsettling and disturbing, and it is definitely not intended for younger readers, but it lingered in my mind. And the artwork is characteristically fantastic, incredibly well rendered and paced. You can see from the two-page excerpt above that Hernandez can tell a story that is both economical in its storytelling and sensational in its impact.

Reviews I have read about this book have been mixed or measured. Robert Stanley Martin called it "a terrible disappointment." Andrew Wheeler wrote that "Hernandez’s art is as assured and potent as ever" and also that he liked this book better than Chance in Hell. Jog also noted that the artwork was "top notch" and added that the story "eventually takes on an oddly lyrical tone."

Speak of the Devil was published by Dark Horse and they provide a preview here.

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