Somewhere between Nancy Drew and Van Helsing lies Mandy, our charming guide into a world of monsters and imagination. The Face in the Curtain serves wonderfully as a sequel to Mark Adams‘ and Matt Warner‘s Mandy the Monster Hunter: The Mandy Book of Monsters. It is well-written and intriguingly illustrated, with equal parts childlike wonder, cinematic battle scenes, and “sisterly” bonding. I can also vouch that this comic is a good read for someone with little experience with the horror-lite or monster genres, as reading The Face in the Curtain was my introduction to both.
Mandy is an experienced teenage monster fighter who answers the calls of children who believe they are being haunted by supernatural beings. Joining her is Humphrey, a three foot tall Bogart, or troll-like creature (and a great piece of wordplay this film lover enjoyed.) Mandy journeys to help Nola, a distraught girl who has seen visions of a dark, cloud-like monster and a mysterious castle. Nola was once a vivid storyteller, but is now cautious and removed, still dealing with the disappearance of her father. Together, the Mandy and Nola bond and confront Nola’s monsters head-on, leading to plenty of fun fights and an emotional climax.
The strongest points of the comic lie not in its action scenes, but in the relationship between Mandy and Nola. As Nola warms to Mandy and her world of monster fighting, we learn more about both of them through how they interact with one another. Toward the middle of the book, we are shown a sepia-tinted flashback of Mandy’s college years which while interesting, does not add much to her character and feels tangential. In fact, the writing of Mandy and Nola’s conversations is so good that because of how much we can learn from their dialogue, the flashback feels unnecessary. I much preferred seeing how the Mandy developed in the present than I did learning about her past.
All that being said, the action scenes are terrific. Each monster is creepily drawn and detailed. The “face in the curtain” itself is an interesting design for a monster (think a melting Baron Zemo’s hood the size of Zordon from Power Rangers) and I wish it had featured more in the story. The artwork is vibrant, but not necessarily bright. It’s childish, but not simple, like how a younger person would internalize the monsters around them (very appropriate for the story). One detail I always love to see, used very well here, is when parts of the artwork go outside a panel’s borders to give off an extra level of dynamism. The pacing of the action sequences from panel to panel is exciting, even cinematic at times especially nearing the climax.
All in all, for anyone interested in supernatural comics or looking for stories with young, female protagonists (maybe something in the vein of Kamala Khan), then The Face in the Curtain is definitely worth looking at. Sure, it doesn’t appeal to the widest of groups. But as someone who had never read something quite like this before, I found it fresh and exciting.