Gurgazon the Unclean is a demon who would like to be out wreaking havoc, but is unfortunately trapped as part of the eccentric old Ms. Llewellyn-Vane’s prized collection of captured spirits and ghostly curiosities. Gurgazon, who resembles a little girl, has begrudgingly allied with the house’s other ghostly and demonic residents in order to escape, but they are prevented each time by the eminently professional butler Mr. Thorne, who traps demons and thwarts evil plots without ever losing his cool.
While this book is full of horror tropes, it is never intended to be scary. Fawkes does a nice job of mining the material for humor. The other demons include an invisible poltergeist who communicates by leaving bloody messages on the wall; a haunted juke box; the Pale Lady, a former aristocrat (beheaded by revolutionaries in 1973 and just as vain as ever); and Lights, a being of swirling ectoplasm. These unlikely allies bumble through their many escape attempts, only to discover that Gurgazon’s true purpose in escaping is to bring about the destruction of the world.
The artwork is sparely composed of thick brush lines, mostly black and white with an extra layer of pink. The characters are all distinctive and versatile, particulary Gurgazon, who shows an amusing overlap between the behavior of an apocalyptic monster and a cranky child. Mr. Thorne, as a counterpart to Gurgazon’s outrageous behaviors, is calm and cool, communicating his moods through a raised eyebrow or a subtle smirk.
I picked up Possessions: the Better House Trap without realizing it was the third volume in an ongoing series. I would recommend reading the earlier volumes first, but I did find the third volume easy enough to understand on its own. There is a helpful guide to the characters in the beginning, and there is also plenty of explanation of earlier events. For the most part, the story progresses through wacky, slapstick-ridden adventures, so there isn’t a terribly complicated plot to follow in the first place.
While there is reference to violent events such as the beheading of the Pale Lady, the violence is handled off-panel and in a cartoony manner, as she gossips about fashion while waiting in line for the guillotine. She is a silly character who has already been introduced as a ghost, so her death scene is not particularly surprising or upsetting. Most often the action centers around magic and unrealistic scenarios, so none of the violence ever comes across as serious. This should be a fine book for older children and young adults who like zany humor and the silly, non-scary kind of ghost stories.
Possessions Book 3: The Better House Trap
by Ray Fawkes
Oni Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Y (7+)