Long Lost Book 2
Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle
January 23, 2019
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When I closed Long Lost‘s final issue, there was a moment where I thought, “That’s it?” This sounds like a bad thing, but bear with me. I looked again at the last page, the final panel, the single word written there. Yeah, that was it. And it was perfect.
There are lots of unanswered questions in Long Lost‘s final arc. The first arc consisted of slow, creeping horror, the kind that grows up, moss-like, through the cracks in reality. The second has been a whirlwind of horror. The plot is dizzying at times, but appropriately so. Piper and Frances are caught up in a story of witchcraft and dark magic and fear that goes far beyond them, and the struggle to get to the center of it and find what really matters is at this book’s core.
By the second book, Piper and Frances are not just feeling the estrangement of not speaking to one another for years, nor the estrangement of returning to their hometown to find it run down and more mysterious than ever. They’re dealing with estrangement from reality, thrust into supernatural strangeness involving their mother, their aunts, and the strange illness that seems to be sweeping Hazel Patch—that is, until they fall into a chthonic world filled with even greater mysteries.
These mysteries, though, aren’t the point. They’re what brought Piper and Frances together after years apart, and they are, conceivably, what they must overcome. But while finding their mother and reconnecting with family are core to the story, it’s the estrangement of the two sisters that sits at the story’s center, the eye of the storm, the point around which everything else revolves.
By issue two of book two, the sisters are separated again; this time by years, by dimensions. Piper makes contact with a shade of her mother in the underworld while Frances contends with the horrors above: her aunts, their betrayal, and the corrupted townsfolk. The further in they get, the less things make sense. When they’re reunited, they cling to one another—the sisters are the only thing that makes sense in all the chaos.
Ultimately, it’s a story about estrangement, yes. But more importantly, it’s a story about reconciliation, about memory. All those other things—the disfiguration, the decaying Hazel Patch, the weird, witchy aunt—are peripheral.
Sterles’ art perfectly captures both the sometimes horrific strangeness and the realistic detail necessary to tell a story like this. She uses a light touch when necessary, letting a few details—wrinkles, hair—do heavy lifting most of the time, and using grittier textures, more opaque colors, and dense detail suggest complexity and otherworldliness. Even the comparatively simple facial expressions become more detailed in moments of horror, with color bleeding into the world to add increased dimension and disrupt expectations.
The vibrant color of the last issue stands out in particular, as stark red becomes lighter purple becomes electric blue, fading into the expected cream and black that is Hazel Patch. There’s a return to normalcy, but everything is changed. Frances’ hair is different. Pockets has grown. There are lines that weren’t there before, little ticks next to Frances’ eyes and nose that suggest a weariness her youthful face shouldn’t have. The same, but different.
When I closed Long Lost for the last time and felt sadness that there were so many questions left, I think it was misplaced. More than anything, I was sad to see it go; it’s a comic that has spoken to me about fear and family and forgiveness, tied up with body horror and magic in a way that satisfies the part of me that makes wishes when I blow out candles.
It wasn’t so much that I wanted more answers—it was that I wanted more. Now that I’ve closed the book and moved on, returning to each issue several times to pick them apart, I realize I don’t need more; it’s good as it is.
I look forward to the next project from Erman and Sterle, and hope it’s every bit as intriguing, frightening, and piercing as this one.