Seekan Hui (Writer and Artist)
Avery Hill Publishing
July 6, 2018
Cecilia, a young woman in need of some quick money, takes a job as a live-in photographer, and glorified nanny, for an unusual family. The matriarch of the family is simultaneously vivacious and overly strict, while the father is aloof, at best. The children are polar opposites of each other: Candy is suspicious and cocky, and Apple is sweet and clingy.
While Cecilia spends her days following the children around, she also finds herself drawn to a shrine located beside the dark room where she develops her photographs. But no sooner has she encountered the shrine than a projection begins to appear in her photographs. No matter what she does, Cecilia can’t remove the presence from her pictures. Can she uncover the reason behind this intrusion into her photos before she loses her job?
The plotline may have Gothic sensibilities, but this is not your average haunted house story. For one, the people in this story have unusual characteristics. Protagonist Cecelia has two heads. Candy and Apple are ladybugs. There are characters with four arms, with three eyes, and who look like talking teddy bears. To say they are anthropomorphised animals would be a disservice—this is imagination gone wild. Surrealism with a heavy dose of realism.
Though jarring, the characters’ hybrid façades fade into the reader’s subconscious as the story takes over. Because, despite initial appearances, this is a very human story of love, loss and the importance of memories.
Where writer and artist Seekan Hui could have easily hammered in the book’s theme, she instead chooses to reveal details slowly. One gets to dwell in the atmosphere of the surreal setting before realising that there is more happening here than meets the eye. And there is a lot happening in this book.
One of the most striking aspects of A Projection is the proliferation of colour Hui uses. Yellows and reds burst out of almost every page, and it can often feel as disorientating as staring directly into the sun. Hui’s stream-of-consciousness style also adds to the reader’s bewilderment.
Due to the book’s disregard of the panel structure of mainstream comics, it can be difficult to follow the story and the dialogue, requiring the reader to revisit portions of the page. Reading from left-to-right, as one usually does in comics, will not work here. The flow of the action changes from page to page. The first read-through will undoubtedly be confusing, but the second time you read it, the narrative will become much clearer.
Having said that, there are times when I felt that sections of the story didn’t quite fit in. A lot happens on each page, but it isn’t always connected to the actual plot, nor does it lead us anywhere. This is essentially Cecilia’s experience and the story of the family she works for. Why then, are a handful of pages dedicated to the mother’s friends visiting her? It does nothing to further the story, nor does it give us insight into either Cecelia or the family. The passage is intriguing and allows for Hui to expand her repertoire of character art, but the reader might find themselves disgruntled by the lack of payoff. Instances like this, and one incongruous note near the end of the book, point to the need for a sharp editor.
Speaking of the characters, we learn a great deal about Cecelia, the mother, Candy and Apple, but the father’s role is significantly diminished. He gets only one substantial scene of character development before being summarily dismissed. This seems less like a creative decision and more like an oversight, especially considering that the father may have proved useful in scenes where the mother was seemingly overreacting. Again, it feels like an editor should have stepped in with some feedback.
There is no denying that A Projection is a fascinating read and quite unlike most comic books. Its novelty value is reason enough to have a copy of the book on your shelf, but one cannot discredit the story, which is strong even if patchy in some places. Hui’s art is unique and propels you to read more, even if, or because of, the confusion it creates in your mind. If you break the story down to its chief components, what you have is a Gothic family tale, much in the vein of Frankenstein, except here, the humans are on the outside looking in.
Despite my doubts and initial frustrations with the story, I can honestly say that I would love to read more. We do not yet know whether Hui has plans for another story with Cecelia, but we can be assured that whatever she writes next is going to be just as much of an experience.