Long Lost: Part Two, Issue #1
Matthew Erman, Lisa Sterle
August 1, 2018
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been calling Long Lost a horror comic since I started reviewing it last year. And it is a horror comic, though not in the way many readers might expect. It deals in dread and touches of unsettling visuals rather than a relentless onslaught of blood and guts. There is little about it that is outright scary; writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle instead deal in hints and whispers, with sudden interjections of the horrific and visible supernatural into what is otherwise a family drama. These interjections shock every time—that’s why it works as a horror comic, because even if it isn’t always scary, you never know when it’s going to be scary—but tend to fade into the background rather than dominate the scene.
Not so, in Long Lost: Part Two, Issue #1. Our protagonists, estranged sisters Piper and Frances, have fallen through a hole in a sort of cthonian, nightmarish simulacra of their childhood home. In this first issue of the series’ second arc, they find themselves in an even darker, deeper world, one where the horror is everywhere. While the intrusions of the supernatural were unnerving in the first arc, it’s clear that they are now in the domain of the unknown. In their world, they had some semblance of power; in this one, they have none.
As a reader, I find horror at its most horrific when I care about the characters involved. And while Piper and Frances are not without flaws, they, and the fragile beginnings of their renewed connection to one another, are likeable. I want them to succeed, and I fear for them when they’re in danger. In this dark, menacing place, they are always in danger.
But it isn’t just the narrative direction that makes this turn in the series so unsettling. Sterle’s artwork and lettering do heavy legwork in making the fear Piper and Frances fear all the more visceral for readers. Previous issues made use of texture and color to showcase the supernatural, and this one does the same, but with increased intensity. A creature the two meet in the depths is exquisitely detailed, with the art suggesting hairiness and shininess not present in other character designs. The lettering, done in a scratchy, irregular font and set in black balloons with a threatening red halo, appear to float up out of the darkness. You can imagine the voice that speaks them—gravelly, raspy, otherworldly—because of how these balloons are designed. It’s incredibly effective not only because they look, but also because of how they appear in contrast to the sisters’ balloons. Piper and Frances are not in Hazel Patch anymore.
As the issue progresses and the circumstances become more perplexing and more dire, the horror increases. It clings to the sisters, following one of them back into the world we know, but in a different form. Hazel Patch is rotten with horror, its quaint exterior belying its mysteries and corruption. We don’t yet know how deep it goes, nor what it all means, but the issue’s cliffhanger suggests that answers, however disturbing, may be on the horizon.
In the hands of a less skilled team, the lack of answers might be frustrating. But in Long Last, they’re part of the draw. The world Erman and Sterle build is one of mystery and fear, which extends not only to Piper and Frances, but to the reader, as well. We don’t know what horrors await us in the dark and strange world of the comic, just as Piper and Frances don’t know what awaits them in the familiar but frightening Hazel Patch, nor in the mysterious underworld. Our curiosity encourages us to go deeper, no matter the danger.