Rowans Ruin is a book that, for me, has become progressively more challenging to review; not because the weave of its story has become more complex, but because it has meandered into a penultimate issue that is at once confusing and predictable. That’s no small feat, I’ll grant you. Still, if this book didn’t have just one more issue left in its limited run, I definitely would have dropped it after this outing. Oddly enough, Rowans Ruin #3 has quite a few elements that should, on paper, make it an exciting read: conversations with glowing green gruesome ghosts, mysterious suicides, psychoanalytic sleuthery, misadventure in microfiche and even a “twist” ending. And yet, for the most part, I found this issue to be pretty boring, which is not something you want in the setup to a story’s big finish.
As the book’s foreign exchange blogger-turned-gumshoe (Katie) gets closer to solving the grizzly history of her adopted stately British manor, she indeed encounters disquieted apparitions, unseen attackers and (if Mike Perkins’ art can be trusted) Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady, but the clues that lead her there are convenient, with a lead up that is rife with uninteresting goings-on, and a reveal that is less rewarding, not to mention more confusing, than I’m sure the creative team wanted.
The fact that Carey’s dialogue and narration sound like every other modern comic book attempt to affect snappy millennial Twitter-speak notwithstanding, it’s just not very interesting -- and this is a supernatural murder mystery! Rowans Ruin #3 isn’t bad, it’s just entirely forgettable, even for someone who doesn’t mind cliché haunted house / slasher flick tropes.
Perkins’ art remains how it has been throughout the miniseries as a whole: expressive but uncompromisingly safe, technically sound with a few random inconsistencies, boasting one or two unexpected flourishes and incredibly detailed backgrounds within mostly predictable layouts. It looks good, but feels stiff, like Perkins is phoning it in or that the story isn’t giving him enough narrative to chew on visually.
I am sticking with this book until its end, but am thankful that said end comes with only one more issue attached. Hopefully the team can wrap it up in a package that makes Rowans Ruin more than just the sum of its parts, but I remain dubious that this will become anything other than decent-looking shelf gristle.
Rowans Ruin #3 Writer: Mike Carey Artist: Mike Perkins Colorist: Andy Troy Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/2/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital