The Eyrie is a dark comic not just in theme, but in form. Drawn in black and white, with emphasis on the black, each panel is dominated by liberal pencil strokes. The shadows almost jump off the page, rough and jagged. Though the art can be rough, and the dialogue a little clunky, The Eyrie manages to create a heavy, oppressive atmosphere for a chilling horror story.
Thom Burgess‘ follow up to Malevolents follows a tried and true horror scenario. A City slicker (Rebecca from LA) goes out to the countryside (Her boss’s house in Sussex, for a photo-shoot), and then weird things start to happen. These weird things come in the form of hideous, elongated silhouettes, prowling Sussex for victims and lost treasure. Rebecca is beset not just by these creatures, but also by personal problems. Her relationship with Aiden, her boss, is on the rocks, and she has an unhealthy drinking habit. The odd goings on in Sussex starts as a distraction, and become more and more sinister, until she is finally forced to confront them.
One of The Eyrie‘s strengths is the way that the threat of the “Long Men” builds over time, pushing into Rebecca’s life. Rebecca never seeks out more information on the spooky goings on near her boss’s house, rather, it comes to her unbidden. The town seems to have contrived to deepen her anxiety. A repairman, at the house to fix the lights, informs her of old legends of smugglers. A man approaches her at the bar, unbidden, to tell her that the smuggler’s had operated in her house, and been betrayed by the old owner. Rebecca’s response to a child’s warning about the threat is emblematic of her general attitude. “You can’t expect me to believe a ghost story,” she replies “I have to save this job before I get sacked.”
Rebecca’s attempt to deny the encroaching horror only re-enforces The Eyrie‘s sense of creeping dread. This bears out not just in the plot but the presentation. Barney Bodoano‘s art is a perfect compliment to Burgesses’ plot. Bodoano draws stress excellently, deepening the worry lines on Rebecca’s brow with each panel. His Sussex is dark and oppressive, from beach to tavern to open field. The long men look like something that crawled out of Junji Ito‘s Amigara fault, grotesque monstrosities; half man, half something older and darker. The Eyrie as a whole shares a feeling with Ito’s stories. There is a sense of the mundane becoming horrific. The ancient horrors of Sussex are not separate from us, but of us, connected and inescapable, creeping into the present day.
The Eyrie is not without its problems. The narrative opens with Rebecca conversing on a train with an angry man who we only later learn is Aiden. This train sequence intended as a frame narrative for the rest of the story, but serves only to confuse the audience. The central story is strong enough to stand on its own without the initial train scene. Both the dialogue and the art suffer from rough patches. Conversations often verge on stilted, and Rebecca tends to speak in a British dialect, despite being from LA. For all Bodoano’s skill with faces, his figure’s can often feel rushed and ill proportioned, especially in comparison to the very affecting art elsewhere.
But The Eyrie is still a worthwhile read, flaws and all. There is nothing quite like the chill of seeing Rebecca stalked through the mists, hiding from answers that find her nonetheless.
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