Reviews

Comic Review – Sleepy Hollow #2

  • Script – Marguerite Bennett and Noelle Stevenson
  • Art – Jorge Coelho and Noelle Stevenson
  • Colors – Tamra Bonvillain
  • Letters – Jim Campbell
  • Publisher – BOOM! Studios

 

 

Firstly, a catch-up! Although I was not entirely familiar with the source material (an hour-long show currently in its second season on FOX), the first issue of Sleepy Hollow was a remarkably complete tale. Although somewhat bewildering to the uninitiated, it was an accessible, stylish and enjoyable issue that I heartily recommend hunting down.

Sleepy Hollow

For those unaware, Sleepy Hollow is a modern-day spin on the tale of The Headless Horseman. In this re-imagining, the eponymous spook is resurrected to the present day as Death: one of the Four Horsemen on the Apocalypse. Unluckily for him, Ichabod Crane, a slain Colonial soldier, has also risen from his grave. After the horseman’s grisly deeds attract the interest of the local police department, Ichabod teams up with Lt. Abbie Mills to halt the impending apocalypse. Blimey. As a show, Sleepy Hollow is well-aware of its own hellaciously silly premise, and it slots in nicely alongside shows like Supernatural and Haven as a fun way to spend an hour or two. As a comic, it’s a four-issue miniseries that reads like an ongoing; although there is a vague overarching story, each issue happily stands alone. Marguerite Bennett writes a dense script packed with dialogue that is rich in character, whilst Jorge Coelho pencils in a diverse style that is able to hit the beats of humour and eeriness that the demanding script requires.

In #2, Ichabod Crane solves a mysterious puzzle box left in his cabin (I know what you‘re thinking, but cut him some slack: horror movies weren‘t a thing in the 1700‘s!). Unsurprisingly, he falls under the spell of the late Colin Van Bilj, a renaissance man who had the audacity to try to build a witch-torturing machine. Obviously, this did not go very well for him. The Witches bound his living body into a tree, then carved a puzzle box out of it which contained his soul. You still with me? So, Ichabod becomes consumed by the darkness of Van Bilj’s soul (with a name like that, evil’s your only option, really), and it’s up to Lt. Abbie Mills to sort him out.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this is a plot-led comic. Plot. Plot. Plot. Half of the characters might as well be called Basil Exposition, so it’s a good job that everyone’s voice is so distinct that it doesn’t hamper readability. As a writer, Bennett is self-aware. At the issue’s climax, Abbie quips: “I am sick to death… of your mad freaking scientist monologue.“ It’s one of those little things that lets you know that the writer is in on the joke, which helps turn what could have been a major weakness into a strength.Sleepy Hollow

When the word count arrests for a moment and Jorge Coelho is given a chance to flex his muscles, he comes into his own. Mid-way through the issue, he draws a fantastic two-page sequence; Ichabod, enthralled by the puzzle box, slowly reaches out to Van Bilj’s tree. As he creeps closer, the villain’s living body slowly emerges from the oak to consume our hero. It’s scary stuff, a rich contrast to the jovial faces he draws at the issue’s opening. Tamra Bonvillain adds to the effect with capable coloring that helps to strengthen each scene’s tone with rich blues, reds and oranges. Bonvillain ties together whole pages in this way; scrolling through the issue in thumbnail view offers a rainbow of tone-appropriate color.

Web-comic superstar Noelle Stevenson closes out Sleepy Hollow #2 with “At The Fair“, a fun little two-page back-up story. Best known for the hugely popular web-comic Nimona, Noelle clearly has fun with these cartoony back-up stories. She depicts a cheeky Ichabod who uses his mastery over all things spooky to great effect. In this issue, Ichobod and Abbie visit the local fun fair. Her art-style is expressive and unique, and it’s a real breath of fresh air to see one of the best web-comic creators working with a traditional comic book publisher.

All in all, Sleepy Hollow #2 is a surprisingly self-contained and great value second issue of a mini-series that is rich in both chuckles and chills.

 

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About the author

Oscar Maltby

A full-time father and a long-time writer for the British Small Press comics scene, Oscar Maltby is turning his hand to comic book journalism. His scripts have been featured in numerous UK comic books, including the Eagle Award-nominated anthology Futurequake.

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