If you recognize the name Charlaine Harris, then you are aware of her series of novels that lead to the creation of the HBO series “True Blood” and the main character Sookie Stackhouse. Grave Surprise runs in a similar vein, but instead of Sookie we follow the adventures of another young woman, Harper Connelly.
In True Blood Sookie became embroiled in the world of vampires, here it’s the ability to see and interacted with the dead. Think of a soothsayer who has the ability to see how anyone has died. She is a tracker and seer of the deceased. It’s a pretty handy skill to have when you are at the center of a murder mystery.
This volume circulates around the discovery of the remains of a young girl who had gone missing months earlier. A case that Harper and her brother had been called in to work, but never found a body. From here on out the mystery deepens as more bodies turn up and the focus of the investigation yields only more questions.
I’ve read Ms. Harris’ prose work. I’ve can see parallels between the characters of Sookie and Harper, which isn’t surprising as it’s common for a writer to place themselves at the heart of their creations. It’s this familiar feeling that innately gave me a sense of who Harper is as a fleshed out character. This is a woman who is guarded, confident in her ability but unsure of herself around others that want something from her; be it time, attention, or information. She is private in order to keep the world away. She has a small circle of friends and family that she trusts, but the trust stops there.
It’s this deeper dissection of character that is on full display in this volume. The story is a slow burn of details and characterization, at time too slow, dragging at points, leaving the reader wanting the action to ramp back up. If there is one knock against this title it’s too many “talking heads”. (Too many scenes of dialogue being traded back and forth between characters without any action)
While I understand the in the world of prose setting the scene and fleshing out characters to the best of your ability is vital to success, this is a new medium that Ms. Harris and Mr. McGraw have yet to learn the finer points, in a visual medium the golden rule is show; don’t tell. This series seems to almost work backwards from that theory and goes about giving us a plot-point that moves the story forward and then the characters stand around talking about that plot-point for the rest of the issue.
It’s my personal opinion that there is a lot of fat here that could have been trimmed off and created a sleek, fast-moving thriller that would have had the same impact. I chalk this up to lack of working in the medium and something that I’m sure will improve in time.
While I will not delve deeper into this volume with the plot; I will say that the story is one that is worth surrounding yourself with. I use the term surround, because by the end of the book you feel as if you have worked this case yourself because you have been given every possible detail and angle on the case. You’ll walk away from this volume feeling satisfied, it’s just going to take a minute to get to the end.
The artwork in the book was solid. Kyriazis takes on the monster chore of illustrating expression after expression as the dialogue flows. There isn’t much to focus on at times outside of the character’s faces, so hats off for keeping the art fresh when the story lagged. I’d like to think that being associated with a high-caliber author in comics will open other doors for this artist, its good exposure to be tied into a title like this when a “name” is attached. I hope that Ilias can spin this project off into future endeavors as the artwork was the saving grace of this book.
Overall this was the kind of book that you would want to reach for on a rainy day and you’re stuck inside with little to do. It’s immersive enough to keep your attention for a time, but moves slow enough that you can put it down and come back to it.
Final Score: 3 ½ Stars
Story: Charlaine Harris and Royal McGraw
Art: Ilias Kyriazis
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Bill Tortolini