By Patrick Wolf
Backways is a new age, gothic, horror-romance that features a pair of feisty teens out to find their missing girlfriend. While the series’ artwork is wonderful and the characters are charming, the story suffers from too much jargon and hidden exposition to be as fluid as it needs to be. At the moment, the franchise does seem to have a lot of potential, but it still needs more time to get off the ground. Until then, I’ll give it a pass.
The story takes place in our contemporary world, but possesses two planes of existence: the Earth and the Backways. When Anna’s girlfriend, Sylvia, mysteriously disappears, Anna takes it upon herself to find out what happened. However, the more she digs into the mystery, the more bizarre it becomes. Is it really possible her girlfriend has become the victim of some sort of evil spell? To make matters worse, another girl—‘Coyote Bones’—also seems to be looking for Sylvia. Can Anna solve the mystery of the ‘Backways’ or will she suffer the same fate as her bff?
So far, Backways is a pretty good mystery series that does everything you might expect from a franchise that splices genres together. You get some action, drama, horror, and—probably later—romance. From a technical standpoint, everything’s done well and there are no glaring problems that hold this series back.
That being said, this series isn’t perfect. To begin with, there’s a lot of hidden exposition in the dialogue that detracts from the authenticity of the characters. To give an example, there’s a scene where Anna first confronts Coyote Bones. Here Coyote proceeds to explain who she is, what she does, and how she does it—all while robbing Anna at the same time. Now, while a move like this isn’t disastrous, it doesn’t ring as genuine either. If I’m using magical powers to rob someone, I’m not going to tell them who I am, the nature of my abilities, and how I activate them. I’m probably just going to rob them and be done with it.
Another problem related to these info dumps are info holdbacks. This may seem a paradoxical—especially since I just admonished Jordon for telling too much—but there’s also such a thing as telling too little. In the scene just discussed, Coyote gives us too much information; however, in the next scene we could’ve used a lot more. Roughly, this is what happens: in a jumbled montage Anna sees a scribble on the wall; she then makes a signal, opens a portal, and winds up in the Backways. Huh? If any segment would’ve needed more clarifying, it was this one. I understand what it’s trying to tell us, but it’s done so quickly and carelessly that it just doesn’t ring true. Would someone who finds an ordinary marking on a wall really copy its motions with their finger? Would they get it right on the first try? Would they just waltz into the portal without a care? Probably not.
So far, I’ve focused on the weaknesses of this issue, but there’s a lot that’s good about it as well. As I alluded to above, it’s structurally sound, with a compelling premise, and beautiful artwork. The problems discussed also aren’t critical errors. In fact, kids and teens probably wouldn’t even notice them. I expect a lot from a series like this, so I’m going to be hard on it. That said, it’s worth looking into. So, if gothic-adventure is your thing, pick up a copy. As for myself and other comic aficionados, you might want to wait for issue #2 before making any decisions.
Writer: Justin Jordon
Artist: Elenora Carlini
Colorist: Silvia Tidei
Letterer: Marshall Dillion
Publisher: AfterShock Comics