My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For me, the setting was the most interesting part of this graphic novel: underground London. The subterranean rooms offered a unique framework for the already-freakish elements of a circus. That the ringmaster, guides, and performers were all take-offs of traditional horror monsters made it feel like something entertainers would consider throwing together for a special Halloween performance.
With such a set-up setting, I anticipated a little more horrifying-ness. But, It opens with the three central characters meditating on the missing Miss Finch while eating sushi…which doesn’t strike me as a stressful opening. The comfort and expense of a sushi restaurant tells the reader/observer flat-out that this isn’t an Immediate Situation. Yet, when you get to the end, you realize that the disappearance happened a few minutes earlier…kinda cuts the tension in half pretty quick.
As it’s presented, there’s no real emotional attachment to the disappearing Miss Finch (we don’t even get her real name). She is presented as cold, not fun, proper, English, and basically as someone they’re stuck with for the evening. Miss Finch critiques the whole underground freak circus as being in ‘questionable taste’. Yet, when the opportunity for her to fulfill her wish (“I wish with all my heart that there were some [sabertooth cats] left today. But there aren’t”)comes, it slips into Mantasy World. Half-naked, Miss Finch — up until that point a scientific, academic woman — comes out with a couple sabertooth cats that try to eat an old lady. Then she disappears, still half-naked, off into the ‘sunrise’ with the cats.
So, yeah, some things didn’t quite work for me.
What did work:
I was entertained by the three central characters. They were sarcastic and world-weary and hard to impress. Lots of snide little comments: “Jonathan had originally become famous hosting an evening talk show…he’s the same person whether the camera is on or off, which is not always true of television folk.” I enjoy that.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.