Guards of Dagmar: “Turn Your Attention” is a book I knew nothing about before first flicking through the pages. What instantly drew me to the book was its cover with its lightning bolt fork zigzagging straight through the middle, the black background, and the frames that look like shots from a horror film. From the moment you pick it up, you know that the book is going to transport you to a world of the bizarre and unnerving.
In this debut issue, the story begins, with the life of a chef named Tom having come to an all-time low. Just then, however, he meets a tenacious “Guard of Dagmar”, Daniel. Tom realizes he has been recruited into a world of monsters, heroes and mysteries when Daniel crowns Tom as a new guard of Dagmar. All of a sudden, all those mundane, everyday problems don’t seem quite so bad.
The narrative of book is intrigues from the off: we are first introduced to Daniel being very heroic in a cafeteria – or at least trying to be – though everyone in the room is basically just dismissing his actions out-of-hand. It’s never said out loud, but “Turn Your Attention” hints that Daniel and others are in a special needs hospital. Though Daniel at the beginning is ranting and rambling about monsters, we, the reader, could well dismiss is as the ramblings of a psychiatric patient, as though we are seeing this through the eyes of the doctors and nurses who are treating him.
My favorite character of the first issue, however, is definitely Tom the chef, the everyman with the crappy job at a presumed special needs hospital who’s only in this position because of a sort of fall from grace. Daniel almost forces himself on Tom as a friend while Tom is trying to work through his personal problems.
The art of the book is beautiful with the tone of a classic pulp graphic novel – the shading in the scenes creates a very Gothic feel. Credit really needs to go to Joe Badon and Leigh Walls because they have created, visually-speaking, a distinctively dark setting for the book, but it’s writer Tina Cesa Ward who sets up the characters so perfectly.
“Turn Your Attention” ends with Daniel coming across this mysterious girl who has suddenly just appeared. She seems surprised that someone can finally see her, which leads us to think is she a patient with some serious self-esteem issues. Or, perhaps, just perhaps, something a touch supernatural…