August 27, 2012

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Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlight: Rachel Deering's Anathema 1

[Here's the first of a few Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlights I will be doing before the show on September 8th and 9th.  Where indicated, these creators also cross over with SPX Spotlights.  You can read all of my Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlights here.]

Written by Rachel Deering
Illustrated by Chris Mooneyham
Self-Published

In a time when there is still much fear hatred, and suspicion, an ancient evil takes advantage of a young woman wrongly condemned, using her soul to build its power.  Only the love of her partner can save her and stop the return of an evil demon.  The price, however, might very well be her humanity.  It's a love story mixed into the horror genre in the first issue of Rachel Deering's Anathema.

Rachel Deering, perhaps best known right now for her association with Womanthology, is a big fan of horror and it shows the moment you open up this comic.  From the first page to the very end, the story takes one darker turn after another, creating a great evil that is spread by the bigotry of those who claim great faith.  All of the key elements of a good horror story are here, linked together in such a way that the plot flows naturally.

When I read a horror comic, I'm not expecting a new plot, but I do like to see how a new person tackles familiar themes.  Here, Deering takes part of "Witchfinder General" and mixes it with demonic orders, vampires, and ultimately, werewolves.  It's really amazing how well these disparate ideas blend with each other, packing so much into an opening issue.  At the same time, the story never feels rushed.  We're introduced to the wronging of a young woman and we feel the pain of her partner who refuses to come to her aid.  That partner learns just how horrible a fate her lover has succumbed to, and now we have a heroine who must risk everything to make things right.  Whether she does or not, and the triumphs and failures of her quest, are left up in the air for now, giving Deering a lot of room to maneuver and determine just what kind of a story she wishes to tell.

As in all good stories that feature LGBTQ characters, the relationship between Sarah and Mercy is played naturally.  They have a bond which has been tested and while the nature of the love does drive the death of Sarah, there's no attempt to scream "Hey look!  Lesbians!" in the same way that certain publishers have been known to do when working with queer plot points.

I would have enjoyed the story of Anathema regardless (it's right in my horror wheelhouse), but Deering really chose a great artist for this issue in Chris Mooneyham.  Working in an angular style that reminds me of the Buscema brothers if they had been slightly scratchier in their linework, he brings a mood to the proceedings that shows just how dark and dire the situation will be.  Aided by colorist Fares Maese, who knows just when to obscure and when to bring things into sharp relief, Mooneyham keeps the visuals varied while also telling a solid story with his portrayals.  His depiction of Sarah's soul being taken as well as a later appearance by her ghost are positively chilling, and his transformation scene with Mercy is top-notch.

From plot to art to script, Anathema is a high-quality horror story that shows you don't need to be backed by one of the major independents to make a great comic.  Rachel should be at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 8th and 9th, and I highly recommend any horror fan stop by her table and pick up this book while they can.  You'll enjoy this one a lot.  I know I did!