Long Lost #6
Matthew Erman (Writer), Lisa Sterle (Art)
May 2, 2018
In Long Lost #6, we finally get some answers. It’s been clear from the beginning that something has happened to drive Piper and Frances apart, some incident that changed everything. And while the flashback at the beginning of this issue does show us much of what happened to their mother, it leaves us with more questions than ever before.
Nothing in Long Lost is as simple as it appears. Piper and Frances’ mother isn’t just missing; it’s darker than that. The strange world they’ve entered as of issue #5 feels something like the Greek underworld, but saturated in the sisters’ memories of their childhood home. It gives the story a mythic, echoing feeling, as if everything the sisters do is preordained.
What transpires in issue #6 is difficult to explain. Piper and Frances explore a decaying simulacrum of their childhood home, escorted by one of the masked spirits that were our first introduction to the story’s supernatural element. The spirits serve as psychopomps, guiding them through their former home and toward whatever knowledge they’re meant to find. As the sisters explore, they talk. And while they certainly do find some things of importance in their home, it’s the dialog that matters.
The issue’s opening flashback is about the mother’s disappearance, but it’s also more than that. It shows the pre-trauma family relationship, the tender way their parents cared for one another, the expected older sister and younger sister friction that echoes their current tension. But more importantly, it shows the two sisters watching TV together. It shows them holding on to one another in fear. The flashback answers some parts of the question of what happened to Piper and Frances’ mother, but what it really feels like is the beginnings of an even more important answer: what happened to Piper and Frances?
Certainly whatever happened to their mother impacted their relationship; something drove a wedge between them sometime in the past. But it isn’t as simple as pointing the finger at the events of the flashback and saying that that’s the cause; a traumatic event like what the sisters experience could just as likely drive them together. Instead, what we’ve seen is a relationship that has long since soured, with Piper and Frances going in seemingly opposite directions in every conceivable way. There’s something more to the story, and that, rather than the mystery of their mother, feels like the story we’re really being told.
The art echoes this sentiment. The issue starts out with light backgrounds and minimal shading, and gets progressively darker the further you go. Flipping through the issue, you can see the backgrounds shift to increasingly saturated darkness, as well as the way the shadows take on a subtly warm shade before they explode into a more obvious (and fitting) red tint. This red stains the sisters as they fall into the next arc, a marker of the changes that have occurred.
Sterle’s sparing use of color means that readers pay attention when there’s so much as a hint of color on the page. There are two places where issue #6 uses vibrant color, both of which use very different tones (a bright blue and a vital red) for very different purposes (to highlight a potential answer, and to denote danger). But the increasing warmth of the grays throughout the issue is also worth remarking on; the sisters are certainly growing closer to danger, but closer together, as well. And as the issue ends with the two falling into some unknown, they, too, are colored red, both dangerous and warm.
Every issue of Long Lost is like wandering deeper into a labyrinth. While you’re ostensibly looking for the center, it’s the twist and turns that make it worthwhile. Though I come away from the series’ midpoint with few answers, I find myself satisfied, anyway. There’s a trajectory here, and it’s one that’s far more interesting than simply answering the supernatural questions—Piper and Frances, the sisters, are at the center of this labyrinth, and as readers we are growing closer to understanding not just what has happened to them, but what has happened between them.