Possessive #1: A Confused Haunted House Romance

Two panels from a comic - in the first, a white, middle-aged man with glasses is sitting in the driver's seat of a sedan, dringing from a flask, with "glug" sound effects. His cheeks are pink from drinking. In the second panel, he tosses the flask into the back seat, saying "Here we go."

Pitched as an off-beat horror rom-com, Possessive is a three-part series from Zenescope that boasts a team-up between writers Hans Rodionoff (Lovecraft, Lost Boys: The Thirst) and Adam F. Goldberg (ABC’s The Goldbergs). It follows the burgeoning romance between failed artist and abject loser Todd and the ghastly specter haunting his recently purchased fixer-upper, whose animosity toward him soon turns to affection. As someone who has written her fair share of ghost romance, I’m immediately hooked by the premise and want to see how this unfolds.

However, as a horror rom-com, its execution leaves me a bit puzzled as to what, if anything, I’m supposed to be laughing at.

Possessive #1

Eduardo Garcia (Artist), Hans Rodionoff and Adam F. Goldberg (Writers), Riveiro and Ula Mos (Cover Artists), Carlos M. Mangual (Letters), and Robby Bevard (Colors)
Zenescope
July 28, 2021

A drawing of a man and woman in bed beside each other with the covers pulled up to their chest. The man is looking fearfully at the woman. The woman is a ghost with a burn on one side of her face and a scared expression.

Possessive #1 opens with Todd purchasing a run-down manor to fix up for his estranged wife Jess and their two children, while the ghost haunting it has other plans. Todd is an alcoholic (or at least someone with longstanding dependency issues) which the script repeatedly hammers home, so much so he shows up drunk to tell his wife about his plan to reunite their family. As the yet unnamed ghost – a ghastly woman in white, one half of her body conveniently burned as to give her a spooky Two-Face quality without sacrificing her ample cleavage – rattles around the attic, she attacks the shady repairmen Todd hires to restore the house on the cheap. Jess is angry that he wiped out their accounts to buy a house without consulting her and delivers divorce papers, compounding his troubles when he can’t even sell a painting to cover repair costs.

The house itself becomes a new blight when Todd realizes it’s haunted and his real estate agent won’t put it back on the market, as it sat empty for decades and no one wants it. As Todd’s downward spiral culminates in a plan to take his own life, the ghost refuses to kill him (although she does take a finger in this encounter). The issue closes on Todd cursing his life, luck, and house as the ghastly lady’s hostility melts into potentially romantic feelings.

A man so cursed that only a ghost could want him – what’s not to love?

Possessive #1 is a charming if flawed start to this three-part series. Its style of supernatural violence and silly premise imparts a tone reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead II. Artist Eduardo Garcia and colorist Robby Bevard excel in delivering a bright, fun visual narrative, full of well-paced gags and amusing character reactions as the horror of Todd’s circumstances settles in. Garcia’s characters are big-eyed and expressive, rarely settling for a neutral or unmotivated expression, with attention paid to even brief character interactions.

I appreciate that the individual rooms of the haunted house contain specific deep tones, characterized by moody blues, greens, maroons, and browns, as if right out of an episode of Scooby-Doo. It separates the spaces so that the house doesn’t become visually muddled and adds a fun dimension to the world’s light-hearted, highly stylized presentation. Small touches like that make the book a joy to read.

Unfortunately, it’s the much-touted script from Rodionoff and Goldberg that trips me up. The dialogue-based jokes are there but often hinge on Todd’s drinking. Addiction played for laughs tends to rub me the wrong way, but it also lends to the tonal confusion of the premise. The circumstances of his artistic career and failed marriage aren’t clear. It seems Todd and Jess shared a huge, beautiful modern home before their separation, but he’s supposed to be a failed artist who is either terrible at painting or in a slump. His reckless home purchase wipes out their bank account, but they seem very comfortable financially. He gets drunk in the middle of the day to visit Jess and their children, but it isn’t clear if he drank his way out of the marriage or took up drinking after its dissolution.

If Todd is a loser, is it because he’s a down-trodden every-man who hit a rough patch, or is he perpetually selfish and destructive? Did he throw away a career to paint? Was Jess the sole breadwinner? When you present an alcoholic whose drinking is played for cheap laughs by surrounding characters, but also a fatal flaw that costs him everything, I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to read this character or the impacts he has on others.

A man can contain great flaws and still deserve sympathy, but the nebulous ambiguity about Todd doesn’t seem appropriate for or the point of such a straightforward comedy, so it all just feels confused. If I’m not supposed to take Todd and his actions seriously, why choose alcoholism, a failed marriage, and a broken family as the catalyst of this story? At this point, I don’t want Jess to take him back, and I don’t want the ghost to date him, either. This is a problem in your light-hearted romantic comedy. The ghost lady is a vicious monster, so maybe he deserves her. Maybe Todd is so destructive that he can only be around a woman who’s already dead?

But I’m not sure if I’m supposed to laugh.

Overall, this comic has its charms, and I’m interested to see where it goes. Perhaps in the next two issues, my qualms will be resolved, and the writers will take a specific stance on how Todd got here. I just wish the premise had been more fleshed out in the opening issue because, as it stands, I’m a little confused as to what to do with my romantic lead.

Magen Cubed

Magen Cubed

Magen Cubed is a novelist, occasional critic, and general internet menace. Frequently seen hollering about monsters on Twitter.

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