This issue of Rowans Ruin sees our empathic American semi-psychopathic pseudo-sleuth, Katie Shackley, pushing forward to solve the murderous mysteries of sprawling yet creepy British family estate, Rowans Rise. Her journey, the beginning of which culminated last issue with the shocking appearance of Little Tikes My First Solomon Grundy, leads her this time through the local library’s microfiche collection and into the still hands of Margaret, the comatose sister of Emily Coles, whose family (and family pets) has been haunted at Rowans Rise for years, and whose living corpse may hold the secret to why that’s been. Okay, first off, extra points for the fucking microfiche cameo. That shit was like the 3-D ViewMaster version of the internet! Beyond that, I must admit that this issue was way more intriguing to me than it had any right of being. I’ll level with you, Rowans Ruin is not the kind of book that I go for, and it’s certainly not without its problems. Not much happens this issue, for instance, aside from confirming things we already expected and introducing new, but mostly unexciting elements to the story (Margaret), as well as a visually interesting but underwhelming cliffhanger.
I also have a problem with main character Katie’s voice, the millennial twang of which reads like Carey is trying too hard to affect. More specifically, I felt like some of the story here came off as hokey; the attempted murder weapon, for example, both when mentioned and when seen in action, was pretty darn silly. Although, maybe that’s the point? Who knows, maybe Katie’s lost her damn mind and is playing some dog-based Parker Brothers board game while watching Scooby Doo, Where Are You? in the mental health wing, either of which would be pretty inappropriate, contextually speaking.
And yet, like I hinted at earlier, I still enjoy this book, thanks mostly to Carey’s ability to make the suspense work, especially in Katie’s interaction with the assembled players, be it her boyfriend, Emily, or even the librarian. His feints may be telegraphed thus far, but that makes me think we’ll be getting a haymaker twist out of nowhere soon, and that makes me want to stay on-board. Then again, it could well be an “Old Man Jenkins and his haunted theme park” reveal and I could be a goddamn sucker!
Mike Perkins’ art is a powerful, yet fickle mistress. Much of his close-up facial work is the most expressive I’ve seen in any book this year, with a not-unwelcome feeling of photo-referencing; a visual turn that I feel actually works well, given the diary-esque nature of the storytelling. His landscapes, though fewer and farther between here, as compared to the first issue, are downright gorgeous, with backdrops that loom dangerously, much of which may be attributed to Andy Troy’s colors, mind.
The only real issues I have with the art is, first, Perkins’ nebulous consistency. Everything from perspective to facial recognition is often compromised, which admittedly gives it an almost impressionist feel, but for his use of detail. His figures feel gangly and angular, which also befits the story, though it’s a style you really have to let flow and not dwell on too long. Secondly, the colors (at least in my digital review copy) felt too smothered by dark. Yes, I know it’s a ghost story, and should be dark, but I could have used a shade or two lighter for some of the indoor scenes; mainly those that take place in the library.
But we’re back to what I said before - I still like Rowans Ruin #2, and will definitely give it at least one more issue to see if it settles into itself and can kick the story open a bit. It’s certainly not an action-packed, gripping supernatural adventure, but rather a more methodical slow burn... with millennial speak. So I guess Veronica Mars fans might instantly dig it, but for others it will be a more acquired taste.
Rowans Ruin #2 Writer: Mike Carey Artist: Mike Perkins Colorist: Andy Troy Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/4/15 Format: Mini-series; Print/Digital