GHOSTS OF THE CAROUSEL
Writer/Artist: Matt Battaglia
Publisher: Dauntless Stories
WHAT IS IT?
An introspective drama about a man confronting his inner demons one last time inside a seemingly vacant carousel in New Jersey.
Ghosts of the Carousel is a combination of the Twilight Zone and a haunting spin on It's a Wonderful Life.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Late one night, a man returns to his familiar stomping grounds in New Jersey to face his demons one final time. What follows is a descent into the darkest corners of his psyche. All his feelings of loss, regret, and grief have manifested themselves into people from his past and other twisted monstrosities. And as he quickly discovers, even though he's through with his past, that doesn't mean his past is finished with him.
How much torment can he endure? Does he have the courage to face what lies at the heart of the carousel?
Matt Battaglia is a one-man band with Ghosts of the Carousel, writing, penciling, inking, and lettering the comic all by himself. It is always special seeing what a creator is capable of on their own and Matt certainly makes the most of his creative freedom with a storytelling synergy that's tough to replicate in a traditional collaboration.
Battaglia's artwork is without a doubt the star of the show, immersing us with moody backgrounds and subtle expressions that say more about the protagonist's emotions than words ever could.
Ghosts of the Carousel borders on being a silent comic, with few lines of dialogue and captions to be found, but what's there lingers with you as the protagonist journeys deeper within.
The lettering from Battaglia is wonderfully understated, especially with the SFX which serve as the perfect background element to make us feel like we're at the beach with the protagonist and contribute greatly to the story's eerie tone.
Everyone has their share of demons, loss, and regrets. Where Ghosts of the Carousel excels is portraying this struggle with such sincerity that you can relate with the protagonist's struggles on an instinctual level. You may even find yourself bringing your own struggles into the narrative without even realizing it.
Stylistically, Battaglia's artwork shines in black & white. Locations like the New Jersey beach and carousel have an eerie quality that feels right at home with episodes of the Twilight Zone.
The most admirable aspect of Battaglia's work is his willingness to go for it with every single page. He'll routinely go for panel counts of eight to ten panels, oftentimes used to convey motion or linger on a character's reaction, always to great effect.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This story is emotionally charged, containing depictions of mental health struggles that'll likely strike a chord for some readers. Keep that in mind when approaching the story.
Note: Ghosts of the Carousel is a black & white comic. This is something to keep in mind for those who prefer full-color comics.
The open-ended nature of Ghosts of the Carousel acts as a double-edged sword in the sense that the protagonist acts as a cipher for the reader to go on an introspective journey, but the information given about the protagonist is minimal. We're made aware of his current mental state, but we're not given his name or an idea of his current living situation to attach to fully attach to him as a character.
Occasionally, a page is too ambitious and could have used fewer panels to let the art breathe more to better sell a moment.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Ghosts of the Carousel is a wonderfully introspective narrative with evocative artwork that goes for your heart. Matt Battaglia shines in the cartoonist role, delivering an uncompromised vision that readers can no doubt connect with after a year-and-a-half of shared loss and hardship. Ghosts of the Carousel wears its heart on its sleeve and invites us to do the same.
While its open-ended storytelling and minimal dialogue won't be for everyone, the moody artwork and sincerity Battaglia brings to the material more than make up for it. If you enjoyed his work on Leap M, you owe it to yourself to check out Ghosts of the Carousel.
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