Following a series of failed jobs and desperate for income, Elliot “Elly” Torres reluctantly accepts a job as a lab assistant to Doctor Vlad Stein, a doctor whose rumored reputation as a mad scientist might not be too far fetched. Once she meets him, though, it will leave her wondering just how far she is willing to go for a job.

Blood Stain, by author/illustrator Linda Sejic, was originally published as a webcomic in 2012 through the website DeviantArt. Fans of the webcomic enjoyed it so much that not only was published in book form, it was even turned into a short-lived YouTube audio drama. For anyone not familiar with either of the earlier editions, this volume is a great place to start.

From the get-go Sejic jumps into the storyline by telling the reader who Elly is and her all too relatable life struggles: a jobless, directionless search to find her place in the world. Post-grad life is not easy and Sejic by no means sugarcoats that. We are also given a brief, though effective, glimpse into who Doctor Stein is and why he’s so feared among students. Sejic’s writing flows very organically and her comedic timing is perfect. It is not at all overdone or forced, and she has Elly deliver witty one-liners while maintaining the story’s intellectual integrity.

Sejic also writes Elly in a manner that makes her very likable and real. Through all of her struggles in finding and leaving jobs, she never comes off as selfish or ungrateful, but as someone you want to root for and can even see yourself being friends with. Elly’s sister and boyfriend are also given some screen time, but on more of a surface level. We never learn too much about them, and Elly’s boyfriend Daniel could have easily been written out, as he brings nothing to the story. If anything, he halts the action rather than moves it forward. Hopefully those relationships and characters will be better developed in the next volume.

The main issue with Blood Stain is the montage of all of Elly’s failed jobs. It runs entirely too long and the joke grows old fast, taking readers out of the story and risks losing them entirely. Had Sejic used a few jobs and wrapped it up sooner, it would have more effectively gotten the point across.

While the story itself is fantastic, the true hero of the graphic novel is Sejic’s art. She is a digital artist whose full color designs make every panel pop. The amount of detail she puts into each character, especially their facial expressions, allows the reader to experience the emotion felt in every scene and the internal struggles they face. We really get to feel all of the tension and anxiety Elly goes through because of how strong an artist Sejic is. Her technique is also unique in that her backgrounds are so delicately blurred with soft lines that they look like photographs, but aren’t, creating visually striking panels. Her linework as a whole generates more realistic pieces.

One of the most distinct and creative ways she uses panel layouts to her advantage is when signaling time by use of gutters. Whenever Elly is talking in the present tense the gutter is black, but when she is reflecting on a memory or having a thought, it’s white. It’s very subtle and easy to miss, but once you see it, you’ll feel like you’ve been let in on a beautiful secret. Sejic is not afraid to experiment and that’s what makes her stand out.

According to Image, Blood Stain is meant for mature audiences, but it could have easily been given a Teen rating. With the exception of a few blood splatters on Doctor Stein’s sleeves, there isn’t anything graphic or gory about it. It’s just a hilarious yet painful reminder of what people, both young and old, have been through when trying to find their place in the world.

It ends on one heck of a cliffhanger, which will leave us craving more and wanting to know who exactly is this crazy Doctor Stein is.

Blood Stain
by Linda Sejic
ISBN: 9781632155443
Image, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Mature

  • Marion Olea

    Past Reviewer

    Marion Olea is the Teen Services Librarian at the Northlake Public Library District in Northlake, IL. She is in charge of weeding and ordering Teen Fiction, Graphic Novels, Manga, and Video Games, as well as implementing all sorts of geeky and crafty programs for her teens. Her first real introduction to the world of manga and anime were Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, which she would rush home after school to watch, and while they continue to be her favorites, many other mangas have since found their way into her heart. Similarly, the animated X-Men series on Fox is what introduced her to the world of comics and opened up a whole new world of reading to her. When Marion isn’t reading or binge watching anime, she enjoys gaming, going to conventions, crocheting, baking, traveling, and running 5Ks.

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