Do you have little ones in your life who are drawn to the world of comics through movies, cartoons, and video games, but you’re not sure what to start them with, or even know what’s appropriate?
We got you! Books for Babes aims to provide info on what books kids will enjoy, but are also entertaining for adults. This week we review ‘Spectacle’, the lush, imaginative new webseries from Oni Press.
By Stefania Rudd. Hurry, Hurry! Step right up to the greatest show in town! With Spectacle, writer and illustrator Megan Rose Gedris places her three-volume young adult graphic novel within the enchanting and mystical confines of the circus. As though that weren’t enough, Gedris adds a layer of supernatural murder mystery to sweeten the deal.
Meet Anna and Kat, twin sisters who work for the traveling Samson Brothers Circus. Anna is a psychic, although she really fancies herself as an engineer, and Kat is a talented knife thrower. They’re the focal point of Spectacle, the shining center in a wide cast of colorful characters. They are very different from one another — Anna is pragmatic, calm, and sensible, while Kat is vain, saccharine sweet (to everyone except Anna), and showy.
The story begins with the circus stranded in the desert due to a train malfunction, leaving both the performers and the crew fit to revolt. They’re stuck under rough conditions, ordered to sustain with rationed food and water. (Even the circus’ “mermaid” if forced to swim around in old, sludgy waters.) Naturally, this causes an above-normal level of irritability for everyone.
The ringmaster, Jebediah Tetanus, tries to ease tensions by throwing a party with the two barrels of whiskey he’d been saving. Anna goes to the celebration without Kat, who takes too long primping, and begins to imbibe — heavily. Anna starts to feel the effects of the booze, and decides to return to her room. There she finds Kat sprawled on the floor, with four knives in her back. Even more shocking, Kat is still present in the room… as a ghost! And a very demanding one at that. Anna, with all her logic, doesn’t believe what is happening until Kat enters her body. It’s here where the real adventure begins.
There are so many directions one can take a murder mystery set in a circus environment, and Gedris does a wonderful job of getting the story going — and going quickly. The plot advances while we learn background information about the characters and their respective interpersonal relationships with one another. This obviously helps us line up the suspects for Kat’s killer. Gedris also ties in fantastical elements that turn Spectacle into so much more than a mere ghost story: Is Nettie really a mermaid? What secrets does Gideon know? Why does no one want Bob’s beans? I’m hoping as the story continues we’re provided backstory on more characters, as well as how they all weave into Kat’s murder.
Gedris also creates under the name Rosalarian, and if you have ever seen any of her work you know that she can take even the most mundane of items and transform them into beautiful pieces of art. The illustrations in this book are no exception. It’s easy to admire Gedris’ artwork, with its bold, lush colors, emotive faces and body language, and even in black and white flashback sequences Gedris applies a splash of red to provide framing to the key details. There is just as much story found in the art as there are in the words. With Spectacle, the possibilities seem endless.
Written, illustrated, and colored by Megan Rose Gedris.
This book contains supernatural themes, alcohol consumption, and murder.
Age range: 12-15 and 16+
The first volume of ‘Spectacle’, collecting issues #1-5, will be published by Oni Press May 2018. You can read issue #1 on comiXology now.
That’s it for this week! Has Books For Babes helped you out at all? We want to know! Feel free to send feedback our way in the comments section below.