“There’s a world of the screaming impossible all round us, something so far beyond our comprehension that most of us just block it out.”
THAT BALEFUL line of dialogue from the excellent 5-issue comic series And Then Emily Was Gone gets right at the heart of how this story creeps into your subconscious to show you things you’d rather not see. The speaker is talking about horrors of the supernatural variety. But by this point in the book, the author has already reminded us several times over—in bloody fashion—that we live in a world where even spectral boogeymen can’t hold a candle to the horrors that human beings inflict upon one another.
The scariest monsters do indeed come in human form, but that is not to say that this book doesn’t offer us one corker of a boogeyman as well!
I’ve been reading horror comics since the late 1960s, and I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like And Then Emily Was Gone.
Written by John Lees (Oxymoron), it’s the story of Greg Hellinger, a broken-down former police detective who sees monsters; and Fiona, a young girl from the Scottish Orkney Islands who wants him to help her find her best friend, who she believes may have been taken by the local boogeyman, Bonnie Shaw (that’s him on the cover).
Haunted as he is by phantoms who may or may not be real, Hellinger would seem to be the perfect choice to unravel such a mystery. So he agrees, and from that point on we’re into a surreal and unsettling journey over land, sea, and hellscape—and when I say “into” I mean into. The artwork here is completely immersive, even while it’s repulsive in a speckly, R. Crumb sort of way. When you enter this story, you are in this story. The real world is behind you. That’s a credit to artist Iain Laurie and colorist Megan Wilson. What they have done here to illustrate Lees’ richly textured writing is remarkable. The panels themselves seem alive! Throw in some clean, mixed-case lettering by Colin Bell and you have a literary package that feels timeless somehow; a moonlit fairytale to be passed from one generation to the next (though it’s definitely not for kids).
I like to think that, much like Bonnie Shaw, this book will always be out there somewhere, waiting to haunt your dreams. Succumb to its unsettling charms, and it’ll take you places.
And Then Emily Was Gone
First Printing: January, 2015
Writer: John Lees
Art: Iain Laurie
Colored By: Megan Wilson
Lettering: Colin Bell
Color; 142 pages; Age Rating: 15+ Only