With the nights drawing in there’s surely no better time to get to curl up by the fire with a ghost story. But as any fan of the genre knows all too well, it’s a well visited genre often filled with jump scares rather than mood setting eeriness and suspense. Which is why so many people often look to the master of the supernatural tale himself, M R James. With a plethora of beloved ghost stories to his name which have inspired countless films, TV content and novels, even on the 80th anniversary of James’ death never has his work been more appreciated.
So when we learnt that renowned graphic novel and comic writers John Reppion and Leah Moore were adapting four of James’ most chilling tales into an anthological graphic novel we simply couldn’t wait to find out all about it. Needless to say the wait has been more than worth it.
It’s evident upon first handling the book that the publication has been clearly lovingly crafted. With a gorgeous matt laminate finish and amazing cover art of the great man himself by Francesco Francavilla. Not to mention an endearing foreword by ghost story author Ramsey Campbell.
Consisting of the classic Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book, Lost Hearts, The Mezzotint, and The Ash Tree, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Vol. 1, gives a refreshing take on the classic retelling of James. The stories themselves offer a distinct variation in supernatural tone and let their individual artists the chance to really push the envelope in recreating the horror of the story within the accompanying artwork. Undoubtedly our favourites had to be the excellent Fouad Mezher’s illustrations of the classic ‘Mezzotint’ who’s dark, minimalistic paneling really do justice to the eerie artwork of a skeletal child stealing figure haunting a stately house. There’s a real feeling of Mike Magnolia to the story’s artwork. The eerie colour toning and heavy use of black really set’s a well suited ‘darkness’ to the story with a feeling that the shadow itself leaks from the Mezzotint in question, looming ever out into the narrative. Also the fact of the subject matter following a supernatural piece of art which moves when you’re not looking is given a whole new lease of life within the panels of a graphic novel.
On top of which we also particularly enjoyed Alisdair Wood’s excellent illustration work on the ‘Ash Tree’. The latter really does capture that emotive feeling of the classic 1970s TV adaptation which left so many chilled. Accompanied with the intricate detailing and pale colour tones which conjure that air of cold supernatural malevolence lurking outside (and eventually inside) a house of large shadowy rooms. When you do get a glimpse of the ‘things’ that come forth from the Ash Tree it’s no disappointment and they’re displayed in true terrifying detail.
Any fan of the ghost story genre will surely love this retelling of four of James’ classic tales. On top of which any fan of a well crafted graphic novel anthology will too revel in such an intriguing mix of styles of artwork.
As a tantalising taste, we can only wait with baited breath for Vol. 2. Until then best ignore the scratching on the window pane….
Available now – make sure you get your copy from