A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso
|A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso
|Category: Graphic Novels
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: A house of death starts making itself known in mysterious ways in this short but edgy graphic thriller.
|Date: November 2010
|Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
In Eton Terrance there lives the Usher family, in a house above a basement flat where a gangster holds sway over a Polish "girlfriend". After a bloodbath in there, the Ushers expand downwards, clearing a cavernous hole in their home where a staircase is due to go. This is not the only crack in proceedings, however, as we soon discover while witnessing the fall of this House of Usher.
Mum and dad are in marriage guidance, one son is a university dropout, the other adopted, the daughter is feeling passed over in the family business, and the mother's own mum is causing resentment. We see all this clearly, and it's obvious this is a very splintered, fractured household before the husband builds his own physical rift into things. But the space, filled as it is with disembodied voices and potential fatalities, is soon not as important as these realised potentials, with an unknown killer with unknown motive in the household - or possibly left from an earlier time.
It's the fact this physical metaphor is buried fulsomely into a murder mystery that gives this book its prime plus point. You're not just tasked with guessing whodunnit but are seeing the artistic representation of a broken family society. On paper my summary of all those artistic splits would imply the creators have gone over the top - there are jump-cuts in narration, insets and picture-in-picture cutaways cleaving the page, and even echoing dialogue is split up mid-syllable. But this is not the case - Mina knows what she is doing in providing us with a brisk yet complex plot, and Fuso provides spiky portraits of his characters, set amongst angular shadows, that expressionalistically heighten the oddity of Eton Terrace.
The end result is deceptively rich - a small hardback of a graphic novel, or a thriller read in a few minutes, either way it seems a lot more slight than it is. The over-familiar family arguments are given a (w)hole lot of added oomph here, and on a second look this title has the most character I've seen yet from this already highly commendable and distinctive Vertigo imprint.
I must therefore thank them for sending me a review copy.
The series was launched with Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera.
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