From the horror based DC Comics Black label imprint (Hill House Comics) comes the mysterious and chilling Victorian- era supernatural thriller Daphne Byrne. Set in 19th- century New York, we meet Daphne, a young and curious 14-year old girl who is dealing with the loss of her father and her now grief- stricken mother. This tragic mini- series follows Daphne and her mysterious new demon acquaintance “Brother” as she discovers who she is, while ultimately trying to save her mother from hitting rock bottom.
Award- winning playwright and TV Writer Laura Marks makes her graphic novel debut as the author of the 6-issue mini- series with fantastically nightmarish artwork by the horror comics legend Kelley Jones. The pair deliver a new and twisted tale that not only intrigues readers but explores early womanhood, personal demons, tragedy, and different ways of grieving all set in the 1800s which adds even more suspense to the tragic tale.
It’s 1886 in gaslit New York, the dark candle lit scenery and natural lightning adds to the chilling ambiance. Daphne, who felt her father was the only person that really understood her, feels completely helpless and alone after his death. Not only does she have to deal with this loss and the constant bullying at school, but with her mother who has gone off the deep end. Using all her last resources her mother is relentlessly trying to contact the spirit of her dead husband leaving Daphne to take charge.
Daphne’s mother is in a very fragile state, now widowed and alone struggling with finances and keeping their estate she begins to see a medium eager to speak with her husband once more. In the 1800’s appearance and title was of most importance. Mrs. Byrne now left without a husband who rumor has it died of faulty circumstances becomes an easy target for a manipulative occult group.
Meanwhile kids at school who already bully Daphne, spread rumors about her father and make rude remarks about her mother not being able to pay their debts. Daphne, feeling more alone than ever and knowing that these mediums are nonsense, begins to feel a strange and supernatural presence who introduces himself as “Brother.” Brother appears as a friend, a guide and pushes Daphne to reach limits she has never thought possible. But is she dreaming? Is she being manipulated? Does she already have these dark abilities or is Brother controlling her? Does he even exist? Does she embrace this new darkness?
This series really makes the reader think about human interactions, filling voids and dealing with personal demons. It explores the mind and how easily people can be influenced or manipulated. When people show weakness it can be taken for granted and even the most “helpful” people can be looking out for their own interests at the detriment of others. Marks introduces us to characters such as Mrs. Swarthmore and Mr. Brooke that really expand upon human desires and how such evils already exist without monsters and demons. Even though this is a horror story full of demons and dark ghoulish creatures, are they hallucinations or more a representation of our darkest moments?
Choosing the 19th century for the setting is really the driving force behind this supernatural story. Jones really brings to life Laura Marks’ vision and you really see Marks’ cinematic influence with her background in film. Although the story does a great job in making the reader feel like they are in the 1800’s and features incredible spine-chilling imagery it leaves the reader a bit confused with what’s actually happening with Daphne. It leaves a lot up to the reader. I would’ve liked to see more with her character development and to learn more about her abilities, where did they come from and did she already have these powers inside her all along? Also without giving spoilers why call him “Brother”? Otherwise this is a very fun and unique read, and I would love to see where this story goes and how far Daphne takes her supernatural powers.
For more chilling horror comics check out the Hill House Comics imprint from DC Black Label!
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