Comic book readers, notably horror comic book readers, might be familiar with Jeff Lemire, a writer of creepy, oddball tales that blend genres and shatter readers’ expectations. Those fans may also be familiar with Gideon Falls, a slow-burn fantastical horror story that pushes the boundaries of the graphic novel format. Paired with stunning images from Andrea Sorrentino that literally break the barriers of panel and page, Lemire’s labyrinthine story is a tightrope walk that the reader has to carefully navigate to reach the end. Now writer and artist are back with a story that shares a lot of its DNA with Gideon Falls, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway, while being a solidly disquieting tale, also promises to be the entry into a whole new horror universe.
The story finds geologist John Reed traveling to a remote island where lighthouse keeper Sally has discovered a mysterious hole that seems to go on forever. The darkness in that hole, however, might be more than just the physical kind. While staying on the island, John begins to have strange and surreal dreams, dreams of someone he’d lost long ago, or perhaps even prophetic dreams of what lies within that hole. What’s down there will draw John in, but he might not like what he finds.
One of Jeff Lemire’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to tell a story without relying on a lot of details and exposition. He often lets his panel layouts tell the story, showing characters standing alone on a beach to depict isolation or closeups of character’s faces to show whatever mood and emotion he’s trying to convey. There’s just enough dialogue to seem like natural conversation, but it also leaves the reader with the feeling that something is just not right. This is only compounded when the story delves into Reed’s disturbing dreams. Many comic writers will fill the pages with captions and dialogue balloons, but Lemire demonstrates a reserve that gradually and tortuously ratchets up the unease.
Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork, much like with Gideon Falls, complements Lemire’s storytelling approach very well. There are times where his realistic style, particularly how he draws expressions, convey the darkness inherent in this world, but when Sorrentino decides to take readers down the dark passageway, he really demonstrates his penchant for surreal horror. From his use of black and white images to close-ups that gradually pull back to reveal what the reader is actually seeing, Sorrentino’s bold images and eye-melting colors make the reader feel like they’re constantly on unsure narrative footing, but those images are also never boring.
Those familiar with Gideon Falls and Jeff Lemire’s horror work in general should expect to see the same tropes here: the gradual unraveling of a mystery, the mind-bending use of colors and panels, and the slowest turning of screws. Librarians who have adult patrons who love Gideon Falls should definitely add this to their collection. The story might not be for everyone, however. It’s not the kind of rip-roaring, blood-soaked horror that some horror fans prefer, but if The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway is any indication, it could be the kind of graphic and literary dark ride that stays with readers long after they’re back in the real world.
Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway
By Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)