By Zeb Larson
I’ll definitely say this for Long Lost: I finished the first issue and still wasn’t sure exactly how to pin down this particular book. It was initially pitched to me as a take on True Detective, but I’m not sure that particular piece of branding works in this case. If anything, it was more of an iGeneration take on Gothic Horror, as we (the reader) struggle to understand whether the malevolent entity in this story is something supernatural or the main character’s damaged psyche haunting them. To preserve the surprises, I'll be keeping this review spoiler-free.
In brief, Long Lost is about a young girl named Piper who lives alone, much as many of us millennials do. Piper's day-to-day life seems pretty normal, at least if you're a twenty-something with no straightforward path, but something darker and more ominous lies beneath the surface of her everyday ennui.
It’s hard to get away from how profoundly odd this feels, in part because those familiar narrative clues we’re supposed to look for simply aren’t here. The connections between the dark presence that keeps popping up, her dog, and her family life are tricky to piece together because none of them necessarily tell you where to look next. The most conspicuous signs are the things that Piper is seeing, these disturbing things that look like pieces of intestine in plant roots or around the house. The more significant ones like her dog or the black shape that seems to be haunting her are sort of disturbing precisely because there’s no explanation that’s given; even their significance is sort of
Something is obviously going on with Piper, and the allusions to her relationship with her mother are the easiest thing to look for. On the face of it, she doesn’t seem particularly traumatized; if everybody I know who lived alone and mostly talked to their pets was damaged, I wouldn’t know very many healthy people. But if you compare her to Frances, she definitely seems like somebody who’s traumatized. She’s isolating, not communicating with people, and seemingly starting to behave kind of oddly. Not that talking to your pet is odd or sick (I’d be in a straightjacket if it was), but her reactions to the bizarre things she’s seeing are weirdly blasé. Done badly, that’s lazy writing at work, but I’m willing to along for the ride and see whether there’s something more subtle being played out here. My gut feeling is that it’s more than her just shrugging off the bizarre; either this is a long-running thing for her, or her mental state is in question.
This is also a book that doesn’t seem to feel a need to fill the page with dialogue. This is something I usually appreciate because I hate books and authors that don’t trust the readers to figure something out on their own. Too much exposition can murder a book. But this book takes that lesson to heart as there’s not much said for the first half of the book, and what’s said after that still isn’t a “here’s what’s going on” speech. Again, I’m along for the ride because I think that the creators are trying to tell a story by letting the silence and blank spots speak for themselves. They won’t spell out the story or what exactly is at stake, but they’ll let us see more deeply into the characters without just telling us what their mental state is.
It’s definitely a horror book for millennials, as the book’s chief moment of levity (for me anyway) is Frances' extended monologue about not wanting to have children with a fellow bus passenger. The well-meaning woman clearly had no idea what she was getting into, and I chuckled as Frances explained back to her what her generation’s priorities were; it’s beautiful reverse Boomersplaining if I ever saw it. But it also drives home far apart Frances and Piper are, so I’m curious to see how this is teased out in the second issue.
So, to sum up, the book, it’s off-putting because it doesn’t lay out the stakes the way that first issues of a book normally do. That being said, I think that’s a deliberate decision to tell the story more organically. I’ll keep reading.
Long Lost #1
Writer: Mathew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics