Title: Daphne Byrne.
Series: Hill House Comics #4.
Writer(s): Laura Marks.
Artist(s): Kelley Jones.
Colourist(s): Michelle Madsen.
Letterer(s): Rob Leigh.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Release Date: November 3rd 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror.
My Overall Rating:
Also in the Hill House Comics series:
Basketful of Heads by Joe Hill.
The Dollhouse Family by Mike Carey.
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado.
Plunge by Joe Hill.
Death is terrifying. It can catch you off guard and take away from your life someone close and dear when you least expect it. But how does one deal with the pain that accompanies such a life-staggering event? While reason invites us to become one with our emotions and embrace the future with hope and optimism, some require answers that only the spiritual realm might be able to give them. But what it might have to give might cost more than just their own sanity. The penultimate installment in the Hill House Comics, collecting all six issues of this mini-series, now goes to writer Laura Marks and artist Kelley Jones who seek to deliver a story of grief, mediums, and mental isolation.
What is Daphne Byrne about? The story follows the young and odd Daphne Byrne in her time of grief as her father meets a sudden death. While her mother is off trying to find ways to reconnect with her dead husband, she finds herself dealing with her own set of spiritual problems as a strange being reaches out to her and lures her into a mischievous relationship. As she tries to elucidate this phenomenon that has taken possession of her reality, while also trying to stop her mother from falling into a trap in her search for comfort, she discovers that she might actually have powers that have far more repercussions on her life than she ever would’ve thought.
“Don’t be afraid, Mrs. Byrne. The veil between worlds… is as delicate as this one. And the dear ones on the other side are so eager to speak to us…”— Laura Marks
It is a bit disheartening to see this graphic novel filled with exterior and interior cover art masterpieces by Piotr Jabłoński only for the actual content to ruin it all instantly. This story focuses on the fourteen-year-old Daphne Byrne and her sudden and eventful transformation into womanhood while experiencing a supernatural encounter in the form of an entity that calls itself “Brother”. This plot is tied in with her grieving mother who finds herself desperately seeking the help of strange occultists to find a way to contact her dead husband. While both plots occasionally collide, none of it actually succeeds in luring the reader into this gaslit late-19th-century New York tale as they both crumble from their weak foundations. The dull characterizations and the trivial action sequences simply make for a depthless horror story that unoriginally copies its plot elements from other classic pieces (e.g. Rosemary’s Baby) to try and stay afloat and relevant.
It was quite maddening to see what artist Kelley Jones had to offer in the artistic department for this story. More often than not, the artwork solicited a solid facepalm if not a strong teeth grinding as it exhibited a less-than-stellar and very average style that did nothing to the story but highlight its flaws. Not only do characters have odd body proportions, but they also have awkward facial constructions that invite readers to wonder what exactly is going on. The awkward blend between fantasy horror elements and human psychology elements was also failed in execution, never truly capturing any sense of cohesion. The horror elements alone miserably failed to take a life of their own. Michelle Madsen’s colours also don’t achieve anything special as it simply fills in the blank and assures the reader a certain Gothic horror tone for the story. Unfortunately, that was certainly not enough to save it from imploding in the end.
Daphne Byrne is a mediocre coming-of-age horror story exploring grief and spiritualism through terror and madness.