RIght off the top, I’m going to say that Imaginary Fiends is the best new title to come out of the Vertigo imprint since DC “restructured” Shelly Bond out of a job over a year ago. The line kind of fell into a limbo of interesting on-going titles DC didn’t know what to do with and new titles, which, let’s face it, weren’t very good.
Perhaps James Rich is turning a corner with the imprint. Tim Seely and Stephen Molnar are starting out very strong with the right mix of horror. The opening splash page of a little boy holding his dying younger sister as she bleeds out and her bloody handprint on his face is chilling.
The basic premise is that the imaginary friends that some children have are neither imaginary nor friends. They are beings from another dimension who can have a limited effect on our world when they bond with children. When the children stop believing in them, most fade away. Others, however, decide to set up shop in our world and feed off fear. In many cases they become the local boogey monster and occasionally bring about a gruesome death to feed their habit.
That brings us back to Melba Li who was the best friend of the little girl from the splash page who was stabbed years ago. It turns out that they shared an imaginary friend, Polly Peachpit. Polly was a very jealous imaginary friend and demanded proof that her friends loved her. When Brinke was distracted and forgot to prove herself to Polly, well… Now Melba is in juvie for the crime of stabbing her friend. She isn’t well liked and works to stay that way.
Until she gets a visit from a FBI agent who says that they have an opening for someone like Melba in their special division to hunt down these rogue monsters. If she agrees they will get her out of jail. There is a catch, Melba has to bring Polly Peachpit along.
Seeley (Hack/Slash, Nightwing) and Molnar (Star Trek, Danger Girl) have really put together a fresh take on an old idea. Despite an exposition heavy start in some places, the book pulls you through and almost demands an immediate re-read. Molnar’s artwork is strong and carries much of the strength of the book, as we see Polly morph between scary and almost friendly forms. He lays in creepy details that you might miss on the first go through, but stand out as grim foreshadowing.
The art is heavily bolstered by the color work of Quinton Winter who build a creepy world of the jail where you feel Melba hemmed in by the use of blacks and grays. This is contrasted with the bright colors of the forests in the outdoor scenes.
While it is too early to tell how the series will work out, Imaginary Fiends reminds me of the early issues of Harrow County. Even when everything is bright and sunny, you know there is something creepy in there, even if you can see it right now.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Stephen Molnar
Colorist: Quinton Winter
Letterer: Carlos Mangual
Cover Art: Richard Page