It seems like just yesterday comic books were not cool. You were a nerd or at best a socially awkward person if you liked comics. The era of the comic book movie has changed the landscape and suddenly, comic book characters are cool. This of course mostly pertains to superhero comics, which tend to be serialized stories we’ve seen over and over. The archetypes fight evil and win the day. When a movie comes out based on a comic not of the superhero genre I perk my ears up though, because I know there’s potentially a very unique story to be had. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night went to theaters in November and is now available on Netflix Instant, but what of the comic? Is it good?
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night #1 (RADCO)
If you’re starting with the comic it’s important not to spoil this story. The story you see, is very slow to reveal its underbelly and part of the joy in reading the first issue is discovering the protagonist through the narration. While reading it, words like ‘mysterious,’ ‘poetic’ and ‘awe’ came to mind. If instead you’re coming into this comic after seeing the movie I’m sure a lot of the nuance of this comic will be a bit lost. Knowing who she is, what she is, and her ultimate motivation is going to ruin a bit of the mystique in this comic book. The delivery is so profound I don’t think you’ll be bored or uninterested though.
The narration is poetic.
Writer Ana Lily Amirpour, who’s also the director of the film, captures the reader’s attention very quickly by zeroing in on profound imagery and a simple internal monologue. Each page only contains a few words, but its brevity actually supports the narrative well as the images slowly peel back what is going on and why we should care. There isn’t a lot to read, but because it’s limited it forces the reader to slow down with the images and take them in. So often comics force you to read a lot, or instead show you very little with no words at all to decompress a story. This story doesn’t feel decompressed at all; rather, it’s very calculated and purposeful. The mystique of the character and her narration adds to the mystique of the book because of this slowly flowing story. You’re drawn in and captivated.
The art by Michael DeWeese is black and white, which suits the night setting of the comic, but also casts a mysterious shadow over everything. The comic opens on our protagonist in a tub, but the water is black. Is it black because it’s dark, or is the water something else entirely? These sorts of questions pop into your head as you read largely because the art is so mysterious in its revealing of things. DeWeese’s art isn’t the most detailed of work, partly because there is so much shadow used in the book which makes the environments and setting very blank. It suits as a frame in a sense, as the detail in characters’ faces is much more pronounced when blackness surrounds them. Without a doubt you will know this comic is a horror book based on how much darkness DeWeese uses in each scene.
The funny thing is there isn’t a lot of horrific action going on—this is by no means a torture porn story—but because of the mystique of the character and so much black being used there’s something very creepy about this book. Much like how scenes in movies are even scarier when they occur off screen, this comic forces the reader to use their imagination to fill out the heavy inks that surround the characters. The poetic nature of the narration also gives one goosebumps. It’s very calculated, intelligent and aware. It’s like reading the thoughts of something very powerful and capable of bad things.
By issue’s end you’ll want to learn more about the protagonist, albeit because we are only privy to one of her secrets, but also because the premise is so strong in its slow buildup. In a sense this comic is proof that less is more and stories more often than not can do better if they strengthen their mystery and never give too much away. Of course there will be those that wish it was faster or revealed more than is what is here. I can see how the story might come off as frustrating to some, but the execution is so good I can’t see the enjoyment of the issue being tainted simply because more isn’t shown here.
Is it that you love cats?
I highly recommend this first issue for anyone interested in storytelling, a good mystery or a well paced story. I for one have access to the film, but choose not to see it simply so that I can continue the story here first and not ruin what is obviously a well told story.