Spooked Vol. 1

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Sophie Campbell
168 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

I know that Spooked has been in the works for a long while, now, but if I didn’t know better I’d think that it was designed as a very deliberate “break out” book for its two creators. Writer Antony Johnston’s first Oni project was Three Days in Europe, which seemed to sort of sneak up on the market while helping build buzz around him. Likewise, Sophie Campbell’s first Oni work is Too Much Hopeless Savages, providing the flashback sequences to the already-popular series of mini-series. So like I said, if I didn’t know better I’d think that the editors at Oni had decided that if they teamed the two up, they’d be able to simultaneously show off each other’s talents and really make names for themselves. Surely it’s just a coincidence that their stars are both on the rise as Spooked hits stores. Or is it…?

Emily Spook’s had ghosts inside her head for years. In the case of Emily, this is quite literal; there’s something about her that attracts ghosts to taking up residence for a time inside her mind, where they can converse with her and keep a tether to the real world before dissolution. It’s not until her head becomes empty for the first time in years that she’s discovereds the one other thing they did—provide inspiration for her art. Now a new ghost has finally taken up residence, reigniting Emily’s creativity but there’s a catch: this ghost was brutally murdered, and the other members of his coven are targets as well. And, thanks to his presence in her head, Emily could very well be a target as well. Every gift, it seems, has a price.

There’s something perfect about an artist being inspired by the literal ghosts in her head; Johnston’s got a killer idea here (no pun intended) and I’ve been looking forward to Spooked for quite some time. We get a good introduction to Emily’s life here, with a reasonable about of explanation for what’s going on as well. As the story builds, there’s a strong sense of tension always present, as the reader knows something bad is lurking behind the next page, just waiting for you to look. Up until the end, I was quite delighted with Spooked, eager to see what happened next. And then, with no warning… it just sort of stops. In the space of a page, things suddenly change and we’re told about them more than we actually see the decisions being made. It’s almost as if you suddenly were told in a movie that there was only five minutes of film stock left so everything has to wind up right now. It’s a shame, because the shift in story is a really intriguing one, and it’s something that I think could have benefited from being played out on the page instead of being informed of after the fact. The end result is an ending (admittedly one that promises more volumes to come) that just doesn’t work; we’ve missed out on one of the best bits of the book entirely.

Campbell’s art, on the other hand, is strong all the way through the ending. I love the way she draws people, with their dark stringy hair and thoughtful expressions. Campbell really shines on her drawings of Emily Spook, with her multiple facial piercings and lost expressions. It’s funny, because in many ways the facial piercings sum up how I feel about Campbell’s art. At a casual glance, I was entranced, looking at each spike, bar, and hoop carefully to see exactly what she had done. As the book progressed, though, they became second nature and something I expected to see from one page to the next. They’re still there, though, and when Emily stares the reader in the eye they’re made very apparent once more. Add in a simple but strong storytelling structure on the pages, and you’ve got a wonderfully dark and enchanting art style that’s going to suck the readers in.

I think it says a lot about Spooked Vol. 1 that ultimately my problems with the ending is that I felt like we deserved more rather than less. When you’re clamoring for more of a book, that’s always a very good sign, and what this means more than anything else is that I am definitely going to buy future volumes. Spooked is going to draw a lot of attention to Johnston and Campbell as creators, and rightfully so.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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