Long Lost #5
Matthew Erman (Writer), Lisa Sterle (Art)
April 4, 2018
Nothing is as it seems in Hazel Patch, nor in Long Lost as a whole. We’ve come a long way from the first issue, in which we were introduced to the sisters Piper and Frances and the strange, earthy horror of their hometown. Five issues in, that premise is the same, but everything is different.
Reunited with their family—but not their mother, who is still the biggest mystery of all—the sisters are forced to accept that things are not as they seem. They have a secret aunt who haunts the forests of Hazel Patch with a throng of diseased townsfolk in tow. They’re no closer to figuring out where the mysterious invitation to their mother’s birthday party came from, and things only get weirder from there.
Though much of Long Lost has, until this point, revolved around the two sisters, issue #5 zooms out from their story and begins to show us the great weirdness of the town that shaped them. Instead of sticking with Piper and Frances as their journey takes a radically different direction, we follow their newly revealed aunt and learn more about the relationship she has with the townsfolk, and the insidiousness of Hazel Patch’s slow decay.
It’s a slow, quiet dread, not bombastic horror. Long Lost truly understands the uncanny; it seeps into every panel, in the delicate linework, the use of texture, the black stains, the hesitant dialog. Issue #5 feels as if we’re perched on a precipice, just short of tumbling headlong into the dark truth at the heart of things.
Long Lost has never given us much concrete information; the story is communicated through moods and space, not direct action. Issue #5 plays with that a bit—this time around, there are some definite, serious shifts in the reality we’ve accepted. Just like in the first issue, a radical intrusion of the fantastic shocks us out of accepting the world for what it looks like. In Issue #5, that shock also extends to the narrative. The story we’re reading is suddenly quite different, making us question events as far back as the very first issue.
It’s a fitting place to break the story, the perfect time to go back and re-read the previous issues. While the events of this issue don’t change everything, they do tell us something important. Until this point, we’ve thought the world of Long Lost was one thing; a step removed from our world, perhaps, like somebody had fiddled with one of the knobs on reality, but only slightly. The intrusions of horror felt more like radio static—now they feel sold, tangible. The world isn’t what we thought it was.
This comic has led readers down a dark and frightening path, but the monsters have only been glimpsed through the trees. But now we see things differently; the monsters are here, all around us, holding our hand as they guide us deeper into the forest. There are no answers yet, just the promise of a great deal more darkness before we find our way out of Hazel Patch. If we find our way out of Hazel Patch.