Sunday, 10 July 2011

A Sickness In The Family

Another book I discovered on my first visit to the surprisingly well-stocked graphic novel section in our local village library was this original Vertigo book by Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso. Mina is a Scottish crime novelist who occasionally dips her toe in the comics world, most notably with a short run on Hellblazer a few years back, between Mike Carey and Andy Diggle.

A Sickness In The Family is published as part of the Vertigo Crime imprint which also included Ian Rankin's debut comics work, Dark Entries, starring John Constantine. (By the way, if you're interested in checking out an On The Ration copy of that, I'd try your local branch of The Works as I've seen it on sale there for just a couple of quid.) A Sickness... is an original concept which doesn't feature John Conjob, though he would fit in pretty well here with the book's mix of jealousy, bitterness, insanity, betrayal... and hints of the supernatural.

The story tells of a family, the Ushers (work out the pun yourself) whose house and home is slowly falling apart. Ted, the father, is trying to keep his family together despite his wife's constant affairs and the various misdemeanours that are threatening the future prospects of his children, William, Amy and Sam. Like many modern households, each member of the family is wrapped up with their own selfish concerns, and have little time for each other, or for their elderly grandma who's recently come to stay. And then people start dying...

This was a curious book. It's immensely readable, due in large part to the smooth artwork of Antonio Fuso and the small format (A5) pages which are kept turning with pacy, natural dialogue. The plot kept me guessing throughout, threw in a few juicy red herrings, before unveiling a killer who was both a huge surprise and entirely predictable (the more I thought about it afterwards). I did think it might have worked better as a novel, allowing for deeper character insight, or as a film, giving the right cast the opportunity to spark off each other. I wouldn't particularly recommend it as a fine example of what can be achieved in the graphic novel form (except for the artwork), but it's a damn sight more readable than much of the garbage filling the shelves of your local comic shop this weekend. I guess you'll have to find a nice cheap copy (or pick it up from your local library) and make up your own mind...

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