Thursday, November 2, 2017

"...As of a person in strong excitement." Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 2 review

The fine folks at SelfMadeHero have released a new collection in their series Ghost Stories of an Antiquity. Like the first volume (reviewed here) volume 2 features four adaptations of stories by M. R. James, adapted by writers Leah Moore & John Reppion with a different artist on each tale. This time they chose four stories which I think are four of the absolute best: "Number 13," "Count Magnus," "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad," & "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas."

Beginning with the last entry, "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" was my high school introduction to the works of M. R. James, although I didn't note the author or title of the story at the time and for years afterward would wonder where I could find that story. In this comic book adaptation, artist Meghan Hetrick renders the story with lush, bright colours which almost look like a child's storybook; then, of course, the terrible creature lurking in the well puts in its appearance and the visuals are quite a bit more ghastly!

"Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" is drawn by Al Davison with very crisp, clear lines well-suited to the material. However, the adaptation lacks much of the whimsy in the original story, as the original was written in a very breezy narrative style, while the adaptation leans more heavily into dramatics. It looks fantastic, but I was disappointed each time I realized a favourite passage of mine had been adapted out.

"Count Magnus" is drawn by Abigail Larson and while the colours (by Al Davison) are vibrant, the story yet manages to appear appropriately gloomy. It's sometimes called a "vampire story" as it involves a man returning from his coffin. This adaptation captures the suspense of those scenes - the slow build-up to the eventual opening of the coffin. Very well done.

Saving the best for last, "Number 13" is drawn by George Kambadais. This too features crisp art and colours and breaks down the original story in such an elegant, faithful manner that every beat of the story is well-preserved here. This is the story of a man staying in a hotel where sometimes there's a room numbered '13' and sometimes there isn't. All the scenes where the occupant of 13 is glimpsed are simply perfect, giving away enough to provide horror while holding back to leave suspense. "Number 13" opens the book and has my highest recommendation of the four.

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