Advance Review: ‘A Picture Of Everything Else’ #1 Paints A Haunting And Macabre Mystery

by Olly MacNamee

Summary

Paris, in the late 19th century. A serial killer is on the loose, while two down-and-out Parisian artists go about sustaining themselves through parties and pilfering. Until, that is, they meet the supernaturally cursed basil Hallward. Last seen dying by the bloody hands of Dorian Gray back in London. A murderous mystery and a daring debut issue from Dan Watters and Kishmor Mohan.

Overall
9/10
9/10

It’s the turn of the century and the dawning of a new technologically driven era. And in the setting of Paris we have a rich tapestry upon which to pin our story of two young social butterflies and art thieves who are about to have their lives changed for the worst when the decide to sit the home of one Basil Hallward. Last seen being stabbed to death in Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray, this book’s inspiration.

For a while now, writer Dan Watters has made gothic horror, in particular, a speciality of his. His works are pitted with references to this fascinating era in literary development, and no more so in this book. Artist Basil Hallward has somehow ended up in Paris, as he intended to do right before Dorian Gray lured him into his attic and murdered him. And so immediately any well-read comic book fan will be posed with this immediate mystery. That, and the fact that Hallward seems to revel in his supernatural powers over painting. This is most definitely not the timid and dependent love-sick pup of a man I am familiar with from the original novella. Curiouser and curiouser.

But, for much of this debut issue we follow Marcel and Alphonse, the two struggling artists who have something of the same relationship that Basil had with the hedonistic Lord Henry Wotton, with Alphonse most definitely embracing the Dionysian while Marcel is more a disciple of Apollo, following a more orderly lifestyle. But, that won’t stop him from getting into trouble. In the same way as Basil falls into trouble too. If you’re going to hand out with bad boys, you’re going to get burnt.

The artists choice, by Kishmor Mohan, to depict the whole affair in watercolours is inspiring and apt, given this is a novel about the power of art set in a city drowning in artists and artist movements. It certainly helps evoke a particularly and appropriate gothic tone to the comic book that works really well. Especially as the colours get darker and darker as the issue progresses. A setting of the sun is often the cue for more macabre plans, and this story is no different. The colours muddy and darken as the gothic horror ramps up.

It’s a daring debut, with the central mystery of Basil Hallward possibly not being picked up by all readers, but I think that’s part of the plan. We’re too busy getting to know our two Parisians to maybe remember the details of a novel written over a century ago. A clever bit of narrative subterfuge by Watters methinks. But for the more observant, a nod to an even bigger horror to come, maybe?

A Picture of Everything Else #1 is out Wednesday December 23rd from Vault Comics

Check out a preview of the debut issue here and come back round these here parts tomorrow and catch my interview with writer and series co-creator, Dan Watters.

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