By Levi Remington
After a delightfully bizarre first issue, Eleanor & The Egret is back and it's picking up speed. Detective Belanger draws nearer, Ellis the egret's bowels assist in "Operation Daring-Doo," and Anastasia Rue hires a bounty hunter of sickly proportions. Read ahead for my thoughts on this week's issue of a series that is like no other.
This book has been difficult to explain, not because it's confusing or convoluted, but because it feels like it's from an alternate reality. I can't put a label on it. Both tonally and artistically it has carved out a niche that is completely its own. I'm sure there exists a small collection of underground influences, but I personally can't even begin to draw comparisons.
Yes, there have been stories about thieves, stories with talking animals, and stories following a detective. But a story about a well-meaning detective (and his cat) searching for the culprit of serial art-thievery performed by a woman with seemingly multiple identities and a talking egret who not only appears to be magical but likes to eat expensive paintings as well? It's unadulterated madness. On top of that, the visual style in which this book is presented is completely different than anything I've seen on the stands. Even Sam Kieth's previous work doesn't set the expectations straight for his work here. It appears to be heavily influenced by European comics, and of course Art Nouveau, but beyond that the influences escape me.
So besides being different, and doing so without looking as if its trying to be different, what does this comic do well? In this issue, more time is spent with Eleanor and Ellis (the bird), and you learn their dynamic. One in which a steadfast, impulsive Ellis pulls the strings and Eleanor reaps the benefits. The catch is that Eleanor is often left to deal with unforeseen and undesired consequences. Their relationship is entertaining, if not a bit underdeveloped so far. Detective Belanger is by far the most fascinating character. He's obsessive, perhaps lonely (he bounces most of his thoughts off his cat, Cheswick), surprisingly well-tempered, and aptly observant. What's missing from the book so far is a stronger emotional core, though I suppose that shall take some time to build. I'm worried however, as from what I've read this is meant to be a limited series.
With the introduction of a new character at the end of this issue, the book throws a complete curve-ball. You might just ask yourself what it is you're reading because it is so tonally ajar. I'm clueless as to where this series could be heading next. It's a dark turn that reminds me more of something you'd see in The Maxx rather than the cheery, pastel-ridden innocence of Eleanor & The Egret. But hey, if we get to see more of this twisted and macabre character, I'm all in. His presence brings a promise of bloodshed that frankly astounds me given the journey so far, but with Sam Kieth behind the art, I can't help but get excited about it too.
John Layman and Sam Kieth continue to impress with a stylistically ambitious comic that dazzles with its unique, beautiful visuals and surprises with a story born in strangeness, adhering to no sort of predictable tone. It still feels like we are in the setup stage, but enough is here to hook readers for the long-haul. A new character is introduced in this issue who stands polar opposite to the aesthetic of the series so far, potentially signaling a catastrophic and violent disruption. I like where this comic has been, but I love where it could possibly go.
Eleanor & The Egret #2
Written by John Layman
Art by Sam Kieth
Colors by Ronda Pattison
Published by Aftershock Comics