By: Jim McCann (story), Rodin Esquejo & Sonia Oback (art)

The Story: One of these people is not like the other…guess who and how?

The Review: The hallmark of a good mystery is not only where you the writer gives you enough material so you can actually try to solve it yourself along the way.  This requires the liberal sprinkling of clues throughout the story, but sort nudged into corners to make it harder for you to put them all together until it’s too late.  You can have the fun of challenging your own Sherlock prowess, and you can enjoy the intricate plotting and forethought of the writer.  It’s win-win.

And it looks like McCann is set to give you just that.  The spark of the mystery is as classic as they come: a woman’s been attacked—on a train (subway), no less—and the big question is, “Whodunit?”  Time is of the essence in figuring it out, as McCann sets a countdown (what my former creative writing professor would call the “ticking clock” device) of sorts for when the attacker will come back to finish what he’s started.

What keeps the plot from getting too formulaic is the introduction of a whole metaphysical dimension where the “spirits” of the comatose may congregate and interact, including our victim and protagonist, Elle Peterssen.  We get mixed signals on whether “The Garden,” as one of the inhabitants calls it, is an actual place or something Elle dreams solely to deal with what’s happening to her, but if it’s all in her head, how does she learn stuff she can’t possibly know on her own, particularly if she’s not even conscious at the moment?

The answer to that and other big questions in the issue are probably tied up in whoever attacked Elle in the first place and why.  Aside from an apparently privileged background and a love for the performing arts, she doesn’t seem all that special, even though one of the denizens of the Garden claims she’s “been the talk of the town since [she] moved in.”  We get only shadowed glimpses of the perp who attacked her, and only the vaguest references to what he (and his telephone accomplice) did to her: “She’s a bit roughed up, but the package was delivered.”

As for our suspects, McCann conveniently sets up an interesting cast of characters around Elle: the domineering mom, the patronizing father, the jerk brother (something of an understatement—“I have actual moving and speaking friends who I’d like to see.”), the boyfriend (with whom she’d been having some conflict), the best friend, two rival doctors, a nurse, some gentleman with Elle’s file on hand, and his assistant.  Quite unusually, McCann eliminates two of the suspects right away for you, leaving about seven or eight for you to choose from.

Best of all, McCann points out that there are clues strewn throughout the issue, courtesy of Esquejo.  Even the tiniest details, like the times on various clocks and watches across the panels, may prove important later.  That’s what makes the comics medium such a perfect fit for mysteries; you can actually go back and scan a static image for the information you need.  And Esquejo seems well up to the task of putting in whatever imagery McCann requires.  His photo-realistic style can convey whatever depth of emotion required, yet he proves capable of surprisingly intense moments of action too.  That splash page of a man being helplessly rocked as his car skids across a wet highway and into the woods is the most convincing depiction of the disorientation and fear you feel when you lose control of your vehicle.

Conclusion: An intriguing start, with some beautiful art, though it doesn’t quite strike you as the start of something special just yet.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – For my money, I’m betting on either brother Eddie or boyfriend Dane.  From the silhouette of the person who apparently attacked Elle, it looks like a youngish man, and both Dane and Eddie were out in the rain when we checked in with them just after the accident.

– Then again, I never trust the cocky doctor, quite easily one of the least likable archetypes in fiction.

– You can be when a comic features a treatise on Pink Floyd at the same time as a reference to Cats, it’s not going to be your run-of-the-mill comic.