From writer Genevieve Valentine (Catwoman) and artists Annie Wu and Ming Doyle comes a mysterious road trip journey with a herald of death in Two Graves #1. While its storytelling style is sure to rub some the wrong way, this comic’s implicit trust in the audience to figure out what’s going on is its greatest strength. With intentionally obfuscated but lovely poeticism and an intriguing dual-artist approach, Two Graves is off to a divisive but utterly engaging start.
“Emilia and the man with the veil of smoke have set out for the ocean in a stolen truck. There’s a bloody handprint on his neck. She’s beginning to worry it’s hers. Death and the Maiden go on a road trip. Nobody gets out alive.”
Writing & Plot
Genevieve Valentine’s script for Two Graves #1 is fascinating and often beautiful, while maintaining a serious air of mystery. A woman is road-tripping through America with – what appears to be – Death (or at least someone who works for Death). Revealing anything else about the plot would be a spoiler as each individual element plays a major part in the story. The actual details of the plot come together slowly, as there are only hints provided by the character’s actions and words as to what is actually happening. This is definitely going to be a pain point for those who like their stories more obvious. However, those that appreciate an approach that goes after more of an atmospheric slow-burn will undoubtedly be charmed by what’s in this first issue. Valentine’s dialogue for Emilia feels natural and bounces perfectly off of her driver’s/helper’s more serious, deadpan delivery. It’s almost akin to the banter between Dream and Death in Sandman. Valentine then switches over to poetic narration at points, adding more to this comic’s sense of dark mystery. There’s an entire sequence where “Death” trails off recounting the myth of Persephone and, with Valentine’s gripping poeticism and the stunning visual work (more on that later), it becomes one of the most haunting and memorable scenes in a comic this year. This is a comic that demands its audience pay attention, and the more you notice the more you will get out of the story and be able to piece together what is actually happening here.
The dual artistic approach of Annie Wu and Ming Doyle adds additional layers to the complex narrative of Two Graves #1. Wu handles the “ordinary” aspects, like the roling countryside and small-town stops Emilia and her driver make. Emilia herself is also mostly handled by Wu, who gives her a vaguely ordinary but still recognizable design and animation style. Doyle juxtaposes this with her own darker, hatching-heavy style for our “Death” character, as well as the mythical sequence we discussed earlier. This dual-artist approach enhances the impression that something is out of place in this world, and that this mysterious smoky character doesn’t belong here. Despite this, both main characters are drawn with an equal sense of empathy. What’s tricky about this though is that “Death” doesn’t emote with his face, so Doyle relies on body language combined with Valentine’s narration to reveal his underlying emotional state. Death’s internal monologue about Persephone is handled by Doyle as a series of splash pages and almost museum-style paintings. The sequential direction stays relatively predictable but still effective throughout most of the comic, with great character-focused shots that pace out conversations between the cast brilliantly. Wu and Doyle maintain a constant sense of quiet unease between Emilia and Death that adds so much to each character. There’s an almost watercolor style to the colors in Two Graves. The palette stays generally pretty light, with even the darker scenes still using the brighter shades of respective colors (blacks appearing more purple, browns tan, etc.). This creates an almost dreamlike state throughout the comic, making the story feel all the more ethereal.
Two Graves #1 is a wildly intriguing opening chapter for this mysterious new comic series. Genevieve Valentine creates a road trip tale buried in mythology and shrouded in foreshadowing that, while deeply compelling, is vague to the point of being slightly frustrating. It’s an issue that is absolutely playing the long game, but the crowd that will be interested in this sort of comic may be a bit small (and include me). The dueling visuals from Annie Wu and Ming Doyle are a great touch for delivering on the dual perspectives of the two lead characters, and their work adds infinitely more depth to this strange relationship. Be sure to grab this debut issue when it hits shelves on November 9th!