Writer: David Pepose Art: Gavin Guidry Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
WHAT IS IT?
Part heist and part romantic comedy, writer David Pepose describes it pretty accurately as "Die Hard at a wedding — or Dog Day Afternoon meets The Runaway Bride."
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Jesse and Emily are getting married. It's hours before the ceremony and Emily seems less than excited about it. Jesse seems strangely at peace, comparatively. He almost seems barely present, working on plans for an architectural dream project on his wedding day.
Maybe that's what's giving Emily cold feet. Maybe it's that her family comes from Money. You know, the kind where it's so much, it gets a capital "M."
Unfortunately, there's not much time to figure it out or have a conversation about it before four men wearing Elvis masks stop the wedding and demand everyone's valuables.
Why are they there? What do they want? Do they know this is a wedding and not a bank? You're gonna have to pick up the comic to find out!
That cover from Lisa Sterle. It tells you everything you need to know: this is a wedding-themed heist book where the main relationship is under scrutiny. The halo effect over Emily's head highlights her as the main character, possibly torn between the two men on the cover, and calls back to the "chapel" theme. The art also looks similar to the interior artist's line art – something that is often a good practice when using different artists for covers and interiors.
David Pepose's logo design is remarkable. The script is evocative of love and weddings and sweetness, and "CHAPEL" is in bold caps. While it makes sense from a layout standpoint (it's the one word in the title that you can sink your teeth into), it's also announcing that it's a recurring theme in the comic. Plus, the "A" looks like it's in the shape of an old chapel with the wedding bell shot out. The logo alone tells you everything you need to know about the plot of the book!
For someone without a depth of comics experience, Gavin Guidry is a talented storyteller. The way he captures facial expressions tells so. much about a character's internal monologue without having to say a word (though the words often do help). Check out the subtle differences in facial expressions in the two similar panels shown in the page below. The two frames look nearly identical but convey different emotions.
Sound effects often go big and dramatic, just a little over-the-top, matching the tone of the comic. Some are really well-incorporated into panels while others are more traditionally placed over the art. But they create a dynamic and immersive experience that feels larger than life.
David Pepose knows how to write a compelling story with sharp dialogue, and he easily brings those talents to Going to the Chapel. Smart, witty dialogue feels like a gift, and you can wrap yourself in it like a warm blanket.
Before he gets married, Jesse drafts what he calls his "Sistine Chapel." Not only does this feel like it might be indicative of his relationship problem (being unable to focus on Emily) or foreshadowing for a future reveal (Emily's family gives all their money to the robbers, but Jesse's plans make them millions), but it also interestingly aligns with the title's "Chapel" theme.
Speaking of themes, the fact that all the robbers wear different Elvis masks and their codenames are based on the type/era of the Elvis represented by their mask is genius.
Like the issue's cover and the characters' facial expressions, there's a lot of subtle storytelling in this comic. You can see it in Emily's reaction to the Elvi ("Elvises"?) or the sheriff's wheels turning when you can tell he put together what he read on the front and back of the newspaper with what one of his officers tells him. You don't have to catch everything to know what's going on, but it's rewarding when you do.
Letterer Ariana Maher is one of the reasons I was so excited to read this comic. Her work is always innovative and perfectly suited for the book. Some of my favorite parts of her lettering were when Emily and her sister are having a moment before the wedding, and their speech bubbles are coupled closely together to mirror that moment of closeness. Or when a bridesmaid uses a hashtag in dialogue and it's represented with blue copy in the word balloon.
Another examples of this is when a character says “Reallllll fine.” Maher purposely misaligns the Ls for maximum effect. But the letters all throughout the book seem a little like that, already. Not jumbled, but not digitally precise. They’re intentionally that way to match the playful tone of the comic.
Liz Kramer's color choices vary by scene venue or mood. As Emily gets ready, she's surrounded by these floral, feminine colors. Jesse's scenes look darker and more masculine by comparison. Her purples and yellows and pinks soften the book a little, making it feel a little lighter, like things will be OK by the end of the story. They feel right at home as a palette chosen for a wedding.
Kramer makes good use of radiating lines to show worry or enhance action scenes to hit harder.
The cadence of the story feels very cinematic. You get an intriguing hook and some music that leads into the credits, then you meet the central characters and understand who they are and what their motivations are. Scenes play out similarly, sometimes dividing one panel into two to show the passage of time or "movement of the camera" within a single space.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There are two credits pages (at least, in my review copy). The second one seems mostly there for pacing's sake. Colin Bell is noted under Ariana Maher's name as letterer in the first page, but not on the second, which may lead to some confusion for the people who notice that sort of thing. But it's just because Bell did the lettering for the pitch for the comic, and Maher developed her approach off of it and asked that he be credited for it.
It's interesting that Jesse is the only Black character in a sea of White characters, which may be used to symbolize that he doesn't fit into Emily's family or her life. While this could be used as a positive or meaningful choice, it could also easily turn into tokenism or worse depending on how his character is treated.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Going to the Chapel has something for everyone. The romantic comedy aspects of it feel very anchored in that genre. They blend so smoothly with the heist elements, you feel like you're watching a summer blockbuster. There's action, there's romance, and the story's got a hook big enough to catch Moby Dick.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
If you like the art:
The Death Defying by Christopher Sebela & Gavin Guidry
Sirens Call by Kevin Pass & Liz Kramer
Death or Glory by Rick Remender & Bengal
ABOUT THE CREATORS
David Pepose – Writer
Multitalented: Currently developing properties for film, TV & comics out in LA
Has also worked for CBS, Netflix, Universal Studios and DC Comics
Originally from St. Louis, where your favorite Comic Book Yeti lives
Gavin Guidry – Artist
Drew a historical graphic novel for State of Louisiana's Museum Systems about the Battle of New Orleans
New Face: For someone so clearly talented, it doesn't seem like he's done too many full-length comics
Liz Kramer – Colorist
Multitalented: Currently works for Lee Enterprises as a Senior Designer while making comics in her spare time
Enjoys learning new skills, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, reading comics, attending conventions, crafting, and watching movies
Ariana Maher – Letters
Often talks about the lettering process and theory on her Twitter account (@CommentAiry) and gives advice to letterers just starting out
Opinion: Is one of my favorite people in comics
Colin Bell – Letterer
Multitalented: Has also written a couple comics, one of which (Dungeon Fun) won a SICBA award
Outlander: Lives in Scotland
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