Throughout his extensive career in comic books, writer J. M. DeMatteis has made a name for himself in both Marvel and DC, from his iconic storyline “Kraven’s Last Hunt” in his Amazing Spider-Man run, to co-creating Justice League International with Keith Giffen. While he’s tackled many existing superhero properties in comics and television, he hasn’t done as much creator-owned work, although he helped launch DC’s mature-audience Vertigo imprint. Reunited with Vertigo founder Karen Berger, who now oversees Berger Books – an imprint of creator-owned comics being published by Dark Horse – DeMatteis returns with a new original miniseries that explores the harshness of both reality and fantasy.
In April of 1969, 17 year-old Kathy Sartori is all about peace and love through drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, distancing herself from her family. One night, Kathy is brutally attacked and is hurled into Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay. Instead of dying, she surfaces fifty years later to discover that a doppelgänger has replaced her and lived out an entire lifetime in her place. As the young Kathy is struggling with her new reality, a familiar face from her past is preparing to murder her “again.”
In just four issues, DeMatteis achieves an awful lot in telling a story that feels both intimate and grand. Through the perspective of Kathy, who may be a product of ’60s youth that doesn’t always make the best decisions (as established in the very beginning), seeing a version of herself that has lived a full life makes her question her own identity, whilst at the same time being a girl out of time, literally. Very much a coming-of-age tale with a time-traveling twist, there is an innocence and humor, from Kathy meeting the family she never had, to developing a relationship with a read rocker that she had long admired, only for the songs she once loved to now have a different perspective due to her current situation.
Having delved into fantasy before, DeMatteis’ use of the genre here has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the time-traveling theme plays into the passage of time and how that informs Kathy and other characters, most notably Hugh Lanksy, the man who murdered her. Although you can perceive this as a simple good-versus-evil narrative, the story works best when the line is blurred, especially when the book is open to interpretation about why Hugh is the way he is, whether it is his harsh upbringing or having his strings pulled by a more evil force. Once the fantasy element gets the full explanation towards the end, it really becomes a reality bender where it gets convoluted, so I wouldn’t blame you if you get a bit lost during the climax.
With its mixture of harsh reality and magical wonder, the book is a thing of beauty as the art by Corin Howell is able to combine the two aforementioned themes on the same page. With his ink-drawn style, there is a simplicity in Howell’s character designs, whilst being very expressive. Along with James Devlin’s coloring, there are many pages where both the artist and the colorist get to show some beautifully detailed large panels that visually get across the themes of time and memory, with a touch of magic.
A fun crime/fantasy miniseries that is visually striking, whilst being thematically driven by great characters wrestling with their own identity.