Writer / Artist:Megan Rose Gedris / Oni Press
What do you get when you cross a murder mystery, an eccentric circus cast, and proof that the bond between sisters extends beyond this life? Spectacle #1 sets out to answer just that question, no chill necessary.
If you’re drawn to visually interesting artwork, this is definitely a series to consider. Gedris’ artwork has a playful picture book quality to it that flirts with the idea of shapes and shadows without quite committing, lending the story a fantastical atmosphere that’s delightfully subtle. Gedris actually does paint with watercolors, so whether the textures are traditionally or digitally produced it’s obvious that she’s familiar with how to achieve just the right balance of pleasant pastel and saturated hues. The simplistic lines used for the faces also yield surprisingly striking expressions and the wandering text feels less like spoken word than a feeling you happen to intuit; you can tell that the sequential art is thought less in terms of cinematic quality than page composition and I really appreciate artists who take advantage of their medium in this way.
The characters are inventive here as well, especially since it can be tricky to bring originality to a circus setting. This circus is neither an uncomfortably close family nor a horrific torture trap, but really a cut and dry job where the members have agency. Everyone from the chef to the mermaid to the ringmaster has a distinct personality and natural dialogue, a fact that makes them easy to connect to. Similarly, our main character Anna’s brilliance doesn’t feel tragically wasted, just simply ahead of the time she lives in and probably actually put to its best use where she is. In fact, I found myself most curious about how Anna’s inventions might play a bigger role in the story as the steampunk mechanics were fascinating to read about without feeling overly dry. I’m excited to see where the supernatural and scientific elements blend and clash in the next installment.
That being said, one thing I wish this book had focused more on is the relationship between the two twins. While I enjoy that the narrative doesn’t rely on the cliche of treating them as the basically the same person, I would have liked to feel more invested in Kat or at least her shared history with Anna before she meets her untimely demise. For instance, we’re not exactly told why Kat acted sweetly to everyone else but her sister (even those who would seek to harm her), although I imagine that might be saved for a later reveal. The narrative could also use a little tightening in some places where it’s clear the creator knows where her plot points are but isn’t always able to smoothly transition from one to the other.
I think this comic hints at a lot more in store for us than could fit in the first issue, so I’m definitely hooked. As a YA title I also think it’s a great introduction to more experimental styles of graphic novels.