LONG LOST, VOL. 1
Writer: Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The first five issues of a supernatural mystery concerning a long separated, dysfunctional family, a stolen dog, a missing person, and a religious cult. Your typical southern affair.
Think As I Lay Dying meets Craig Thompson’s Blankets.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Francis becomes worried about her depressed sister Piper and travels across the country to check up on her. When she arrives, she finds there’s something in Piper’s house: a creepy, inhuman presence that steals Piper’s dog, Pockets, and offers them a strange invitation. It asks them to attend their mother’s birthday party – a party no one is planning, for a woman neither daughter has seen in fifteen years.
Piper, desperate to get her dog back, drives to their hometown, Hazel Patch, with Frances in tow. On top of the eerie feeling of returning to a place full of bad memories, strange things keep happening around them. They are repeatedly isolated, threatened, and tested as they navigate their old home, their strained relationship, and the news that their mother has gone missing.
There’s a strange sickness sweeping through the town, eyes watching them from every corner, and the feeling that no one can be trusted. Will Piper and Frances be able to find their mother and reclaim Pockets, or will the mysterious forces at play break apart their already fractured family and bring ruin to the town of Hazel Patch?
Erman’s character dialogue lends a unique and specific voice for every character which helps strange events seem more believable as they’re filtered through those voices.
Sterle’s art, while simple, is striking. It’s reminiscent of Art Spiegelman without the insane experimental flair, or Brian Lee O’Malley without the manga influences.
The book makes the most of the black and white art style, adding wonderful greytones, stark contrast, and the very occasional splash of color (Sin City style) to add emphasis and atmosphere to the story.
Long Lost nails the feeling of returning to a childhood home you’d rather not revisit. Likewise, the strained relationships between family members is a dynamic the story and writer handle with impressive care and accuracy.
The slow steady rebuilding of the relationship between Francis and Piper, the sisters and protagonists, is front and center. As strange as things get in this twisty, gothic tale, it never loses sight of its emotional core or its central themes.
When the story starts to pick up, there’s a ton of intrigue and high stakes to keep the reader engaged. Though I wish it got there sooner, by the end of the first half it’s hard not to want to know what happens next.
It’s nice to see a story with almost exclusively female characters, none of which feel one-dimensional or default to talking about boys as their defining personality trait.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I alluded to the story getting involved later on: it’s slow early with very little urgency or stakes.
Characters often react either without urgency or in a way that feels disconnected with the situation at hand. Obvious lines of questioning are dropped without much convincing and bizarre events requiring urgent attention aren’t given the kind of reactions any human would give them.
Background features are often not there or not detailed. This happens in almost every comic, but here it seems much more frequent and, considering the otherwise lovely quality of the art, it’s more obvious.
The lettering teeters the line between quirky and amateur. Tails frequently don’t lead to characters' mouths, nonpersonal "I"s have crossbars, and occasionally balloons just float there with no tail at all. The characters have unique enough voices that you rarely have to do guesswork, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the problem.
Not friendly for children. Intense imagery, cursing, etc. It’s mature so if you’re not old enough, grow up. If that’s not your thing, avoid it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you’re a fan of stories centered around building a relationship, I’d give this one a shot. It’s got a ton of heart and some wonderful characters and, when it’s focused on exploring the dynamic between them, the story and art really shine.
If you get hung up on small details or get pulled out of a story easily, it might not hold your attention, but if you like a slow burn, unique art, and a gothic aesthetic, this story will probably speak to you.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Everything is Going Wrong, Anthology edited by Mark Bouchard
The Boy with Nails for Eyes by Shaun Gardiner
Strayed by Carlos Giffoni & Juan Doe
If you like the art:
Dead Beats, Anthology edited by Joe Corallo & Eric Palicki
Protector/First Knife by Daniel Bensen and Simon Roy & Artyom Trakhanov
Blankets by Craig Thompson
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Matthew Erman – Writer
New Face: Long Lost is Erman’s first solo project. He has stories in numerous comic anthologies and is slated to release his second graphic novel Bonding later this year through Vault Comics.
Dream Team: Collaborates frequently with Lisa Sterle, who happens to be his wife.
Multitalented: Worked as a digital marketing specialist for seven years, which probably helped him market Long Lost to win various awards and be optioned as a TV series.
Lisa Sterle – Artist
Prolific: Though fairly new to the scene, she already has titles published by Vault, IDW, Archie, and Black Mask, with two monthly comics and a full graphic novel currently in development.
She describes her style as “marrying her two favorite themes: the beautiful and the grotesque,” and crafts on her own personal project The Modern Witch Tarot Deck, a modern and diverse update of the classic occult cards.
Her active Instagram and Twitter often reward followers with exclusive deals on prints and a sneak peek at what she’s working on at the moment.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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