Little Girl # 1
“Chapter One: Shalt Not”
Writer: Pat Shand
Artist/Cover artist: Olivia Pelaez
Colors: Fran Gamboa & J.C. Ruiz
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Devil’s Due Comics/1First Comics
Price: $3.99 US each
Pat Shand is most closely associated with the Zenescope brand, and it’s one that’s been built on buxom reinterpretations of storybook characters, and that doesn’t appeal to me. But as Shand demonstrates with this horror title, he’s capable of more mature and interesting fare. At first glance, Little Girl is a comic that seeks to capitalize on the prevalence of the image of the drenched, creepy, long-haired girl in Japanese horror films and Western adaptations, and in a text piece in the back of the first issue, Shand acknowledges the inspiration. But he does something a little different with it here. I was drawn in by the story, more from the fact that every player in the drama is deeply flawed and dishonest. Nevertheless, the writer makes them relatable, even sympathetic, as they make poor choices and struggle with relationships. This is a mature and thoughtful story, illustrated perfectly in an angular, exaggerated style that amps up the tension – both interpersonal and supernatural.
Sarah and Damen are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Damen is forever on the road for his writing career, and the distance is hard on the couple. But their efforts at connecting are only half-hearted, as each is having an affair, unbeknownst to the other. Damen’s alcoholic brother is an issue for Sarah as well, which brings more friction between husband and wife. But those problems are paltry compared to what Sarah is suddenly experiencing. She feels something watching her, lurking around dark corners, and then she starts seeing a ghostly little girl, drenched to the skin. And that apparition seems intent on purging the sin she perceives around her…
Olivia Pelaez’s name is a new one to me, but she handles the disparate aspects of the story quite well; her work here reminds me a little of the style of Bilquis (Wonder Woman) Evely. Her exaggerated style effectively conveys the crazed and creepily monstrous nature of the title character (aided a great deal by the haunting, bleached colors that distinguishes the ghost girl from the rest of the characters). But Pelaez does a solid job of capturing the more mundane, everyday elements of the plot. While the characters are brought to life in her sharp and elongated style, she has a strong eye for natural movement. Pelaez employs some extreme perspectives – often, worm’s eye views – to amp up in the tension in the story, and I absolutely loved the convergence of linework and colors in that opening scene focusing on a discarded plush toy in a soaked, dark streetscape.
The argument could easily be made that modern horror movies – Eastern or Western – have overused the creepy, drench child trope (most associated in this part of the world with The Ring), and when I saw the cover for this comic, I figured the creators were guilty of that sin. But Shand sets his take on the concept apart by instilling the title ghoul with more of a personality. Her anger comes through in her words. Her wet appearance clearly flows from some kind extreme of baptism ritual, and her words belie a perspective of Christianity that embraces a vengeful and judgmental God as opposed to a loving one. But the most compelling exploration of the “Little Girl” comes in the closing moments of the issue, when she actually comes off as an innocent child marred by some kind of tragedy.
As compelling as those moments were, though, I was far more interested in the self-destructive behaviour of Sarah and Damen. On the surface, they have everything they could want from life. Sarah has a stable job in which she helps people, and Damen’s career is on an upward trajectory. But they’re never satisfied. They’re empty, and they desperately try to fill the voids. Sarah comes off as more sympathetic – mainly because of the isolation she feels and the supernatural trauma that’s befalling her – while Damen is far more selfish, using his success as a means to indulge his baser desires. Both are dishonest with one another, and I look forward to see if they recognize that about themselves and how they’ll resolve it. 8/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release July 11.