Vacancy is one of those books that you don’t want to tell people what it’s about, but ultimately you have to in order to get them to read it. That’s where we are with this review. I don’t want to tell you that it’s a dash of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth mixed with teenage angst, but that is the best way to describe it. I hate myself for it, but now you all have an idea of what to expect from Vacancy, but not really. It’s why I hate to suggest another title in a review because Sweet Tooth and Vacancy only share one thing in common and that’s anthropomorphic people. Maybe a little more than that, but hey you need something to read right?
The story is strange and I loved it more because of that. We start off with Simon, a young boy… ah… dog boy wearing a hoodie and thick framed glasses with shorts. His appearance is cartoonish and part of you might even think that this is going to be a good natured romp about animal children, but we quickly see that it’s not. Simon is confined to a backyard that looks overrun and littered with trash. He stares out of a hole in the fence and tells himself that he’s going to go find his pack tomorrow.
When tomorrow comes he decides against digging and stares out his hole looking into the woods until another eye pops in and surprises him. A raccoon boy, Cliff, reaches in and scares Simon and suddenly this world doesn’t seem too friendly. Cliff talks his deer friend Reynard into kicking down the fence and Cliff instantly starts eating from Simon’s bag of trash. Simon is mesmerized by the woods and freedom, so much so that he doesn’t notice or care that Cliff is taking his food. As Cliff and Reynard take off into the woods Simon follows and asks for them to show him the ropes of the woods, something they don’t really know themselves.
More than likely these anthropomorphic people were at one time just animals. The story alludes to it, but doesn’t outright say it. The way Simon acts says a lot because he’s staying in the backyard of an empty house, too afraid to leave it. Simon is the catalyst of the story and while there’s no big journey, just an intense scene that leads to a conclusion which leaves the story open for more, it’s still a satisfying read.
It’s not bogged down with dialogue or explanation, but rather we see this strange world through Simon’s eyes. It leaves you with so many questions, but hardly any answers and I was okay with that. I liked not knowing. It’s maddening because I want to know, but then that’s why I would read more. The story is well paced and while we don’t spend a lot of time with the characters we do get to know them and understand their personalities. All three are very different and the trio make a unique and balanced group.
The artwork is wonderful. The linework is clean and detailed and the characters designs really look like modern children with their fashion and style… but they’re animals. The coloring is vibrant and at times has a neon vibe to it which gives it a creepy look. The fact is this world is a bit creepy and that comes from the art. The kids try to pretend that they’re not afraid of the woods, but it’s clear that they are and you would be too after seeing the artwork.
This story resonated with me. I wanted more of it. More of this world even if it was with different characters. I do want to know the mysteries of how it came to exist, but at the same time I don’t need it. It’s strange, it’s cool, it’s damn entertaining and if any of those sound good to you then check out Vacancy.
You can hear more about Vacancy on this week's CBMFP...