Writer: Declan Shalvey / Artist: Gavin Fullerton / Image
The macabre cover of Bog Bodies gave me the impression that it was some sort of horror graphic novel. And while it was ultimately a dark story that explored monstrosity, it was not in the context of something supernatural but rather an examination of the kindness and unkindness humans are capable of. Bog Bodies is a trod through depravity and empathy, a chilling tale of who we are in the dark. It’s a slow burn of a book, one that relishes in quick spikes of adrenaline which quickly settles into a slow unease that disrupts the sinus rhythm of your heart before quickly applying another jolt.
Bog Bodies opens with a news broadcast about Niamh “Neev” Madigan, a missing woman in Dublin, before introducing its other protagonist Killian, an Irish mobster who gets called to do an undisclosed late at night. Of course, the excursion to the countryside turns out just to be a pretense for Kaneo and his partner Gerry to kill Killian for a botched job. It’s only through luck that Killian is able to escape into the Dublin mountainside where luck would also have it, he meets Neev and the stories start in proper: two strangers trekking in the wilderness, trying to survive being hunted and haunted by their past.
Stylistically, there are a lot of things that I appreciate about Bog Bodies. The transcription of the Irish accent, while causing me personally to take a second to process during my initial read, creates a distinct rhythm and helped conjure the sound in my mind. Shalvey’s dialog was evocative yet familiar, with a very natural rhythm throughout the pages. The dark color palette and default to a pitch black background for the majority of the book, created stunning panels and allowed Fullerton’s details to pop with the different color contrasts. It was a visually engaging book to look at as Fullerton’s art was perfectly backed by Nalty’s colors and Cowles’s lettering.
Narrative, the self-contained nature of the story worked in favor and the slow reveal helped keep the book focused on the moment to moment character interactions to its strength. The overarching plot does come to a suitable end, but the true strength of the graphic novel is within its second act. I like the fact that it’s unlike anything else that I’ve ever read. I like the fact that it’s grounded, detailed, and gritty. And during a time when I’m a little overeager to race to the end, I like the fact that Bog Bodies encouraged me to slow down and simmer in the fates of the quartet.
8.4 “Payments” out of 10