Summary

A wholly original and unforgettable take on small-scale crime and its haunting effects.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering
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Graphic Novel Review: BOG BODIES – No Loose Ends

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Writer Declan Shalvey and artist Gavin Fullerton unite their talents to create “Bog Bodies,” a crime story like nothing you’ve read before. They, along with the talents of Rebecca Nalty on colors and lettering from Clayton Cowles, create a wholly original story about small-scale crime and the haunting effects it has on those involved in it – willing or not.

“A cold, poignant story of crime, survival, and regret, “Bog Bodies” follows an Irish gangster on the run after a job gone wrong who encounters a young woman lost in the Dublin mountains. Injured and unarmed, the unlikely pair must try to evade their pursuers and survive the desolate bog that has served as burial grounds for unspeakable murder throughout history.”

Writing & Plot

The winning technique behind “Bog Bodies'” enrapturing plot is writer Declan Shalvey‘s ability to give the reader just enough – but never too much. Shalvey focuses on the characters first and foremost and the immediate conflict they find themselves in. He progresses the plot by throwing wrenches into its workings: a gangster is on the run, he meets a girl, they run together, things happen, etc. On top of the characterization via placing characters in a set of situations, Shalvey then reveals just enough backstory into the events that led to this story to point the reader towards the truth. This is the true genius at work in this graphic novel. The writer trusts his audience enough to hand them the clues and directions, but he never holds their hand to the truth. The plot-twist revelations in this novel’s final act are fantastic not only in their execution but also in how open to interpretation they become. I spent a large portion of my morning musing upon the hows and whys of this story’s ending.

The characters themselves are fleshed out brilliantly. Each of the four main characters has their own distinct personalities, motivations, and manners of speaking to one another. The dialogue is full of Irish colloquialisms and naturalistic speech that are a complete joy to read. The nuance in this graphic novel is an example of knowing how to utilize the comic medium to its fullest potential.

Art Direction

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Gavin Fullerton‘s artwork in “Bog Bodies” is an entrancing mix of detailed character art and environmental scale. The latter of these being how Fullerton uses landscapes to set a tone, then refocuses on the small-scale events our characters inhabit. He often draws panels of one or two people from a distance in the backdrop of the Irish countryside. These moonlit scenes instill a sense of quiet as well, adding to the hushed and unnerving tone of the novel. Fullerton’s panel direction guides the plot and its individual moments along in a pristine manner, highlighting stellar character moments in tune with the book’s prevalent mood. Much of this mood is created by colorist Rebecca Nalty. The brilliance of the coloring in “Bog Bodies” is that it’s all created as a reflection of the light sources within the comic. As this graphic novel takes place entirely at night, everything from the moon to a car’s taillights provide the hues that paint environments and characters. This also creates a ghostly pallor in key scenes that set a very specific and necessary mood. Clayton Cowles lettering offers spot-on inflection for the variety of tones the characters inhabit in their dialogue. This spot-on artistry is all in part to a visual team that utilizes setting and practical ideas that are rarely seen in comics – if any medium at all.

“Bog Bodies” is a creation of contemplative beauty. Declan Shalvey has written a crime story rife with emotion that trusts its audience to interpret events. Gavin Fullerton and Rebecca Nalty bestow the work with visual artistry that creates detailed, believable characters in an environment that speaks whole pages, often with no words needed. This is a graphic novel that will leave you thinking about it for hours – if not days – after finishing its final page. Make sure to grab this masterful piece of storytelling from your local comic shop when it hits shelves on 4/22.

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Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.