The supernatural genre is thick with content throughout all forms of entertainment. Because of that there are very few things that stand out or rise to the top. That’s why friend recommendations and reviews are so important because otherwise you’d end up buying all of it until you just couldn’t take it anymore. No one wants you to give up on the genre. Well I’m happy to tell you that Duppy ’78 is worth the money. It’s not that the structure of the story was vastly different from other supernatural stories, but it’s the execution and concept that makes it stand apart. With a lot of supernatural stories the goal is to creep you out or scare you. With Duppy ’78 I got a different vibe. I was never really scared or shocked, but more interested. This world of Duppy’s fascinated me and the story only made me want more of the world. There is some brilliance in the setting of the story since giving it a year allows for sequels set in other times. Even if that’s not the goal the setting and time make for a great era in which the story takes place.
So what is a “Duppy”? It’s a Jamaican term for ghost or spirit, but the term doesn’t end there. There is also the term “Duppy Man” which upon looking it up can have a couple of meanings; a racial slur against white people, but also an implication of someone who should be dead and basically doesn’t exist to those around you (that’s the one for this story). I think it’s important to know those not so much for the story, but for the rest of the review. Unlike the book I won’t have as much room or time to build up the meaning of both terms for you.
The opening is good. I think it can be a little confusing if you’re unclear about the story, but especially reading it a second time I understand what’s going on. We’re introduced to a low-level thug that’s screwed up too many times and is being taken to see his boss - Too-Bad. Can we pause here and acknowledge how awesome that name is? Too Bad lays out what’s going on for the thug as he brings out a boy named Judah. Judah is confined to a wheelchair and has a burlap sack over his head. It’s a disturbing image, but nothing that a grown man should be scared of. The thug begins to freak out especially after the bag is removed from Judah’s head. The hired help shoots the thug killing him instantly and we see his Duppy stand up out of the body. Judah who is actually a normal looking boy can see his Duppy and others floating around the area and asks for his sack back. Now our dead thug is one of Judah’s Duppys.
From there the story continues to introduce us to other gangsters and their children that can see Duppys. There are three in total for both gangsters and children; the kids are each gangster’s trump card. It’s like an arms race as neither gangster can use their child who has the ability to see and control the Duppys, against the others. This brings about a seize fire between the three, but the catch is that the children don’t know about each other. What happens is that one of the Duppys doesn’t want to be controlled or contained anymore and puts in motion a plan to be released by using a Duppy Man. This event causes the children to hear each other’s thoughts in times of distress and seek each other out.
I really enjoyed this story. Like I said it’s more interesting than scary. I think with any supernatural world it’s important to interest the audience in the world. People latch on to vampires and zombies because they’re interested in the lore and myth around them. With Duppy ’78 I was engrossed in the world and wanted more than the story had time to offer me. That’s not a bad thing as a good story should leave you wanting more and that’s exactly what writer Casey Seijas has done. Seijas’ focus is on the children at times, but also the gangsters/mobsters. Without their evil to counter the kid’s corrupted innocence the story doesn’t have as much impact. Seijas maintains a great pacing for the story as it bounces from the present to the past in order to explain each child’s origin. This is very effective for the style of story and makes for a strong read. The dialogue is also easy to follow, but still has that Jamaican flair to it. It’s effortlessly added to the dialogue so don’t worry about it feeling like a terrible parody or anything like that and comes with a word index.
The art also plays a large role in the storytelling. The thing about the Duppys is that no one describes them or really talks about them. In fact even those that can control them and see them don’t talk about them in fear of them. That’s where the scary elements of the story come into play, with the visuals. To see the hollow spirits of people flying around and swarming an area like insects is creepy. There’s one sequence in particular that I can’t describe without spoiling the story, but it’s very good and reminded me a bit of Repossesssed. Trust me, that’s a worthy comparison. Artist Amancay Nahuelpan does a tremendous job with facial expressions, especially with the children. You feel their pain and anxiety of their life which is a powerful visual.
Of course if you don’t like supernatural stories than you’re probably not interested in this one, but if you consider that this story is more about how we treat each other and our youth; then maybe it is for you. I found it to be a terrific read. I really hope that there are other stories set in the same universe even if they don’t use the same characters. The concept is strong enough and more importantly… interesting enough to carry on, and if it does I’ll be there for it.
Writer: Casey Seijas Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan Publisher: Com.X Price: $17.99 Release Date: 1/14/14