Review: 'Emily and the Strangers' #1 Puts Emily Ivie on the Map

 Emily and the Strangers #1, cover by Emily Ivie. Cosmic Debris Etc, Inc./Dark Horse Comics.

Emily and the Strangers #1, cover by Emily Ivie. Cosmic Debris Etc, Inc./Dark Horse Comics.

Emily and the Strangers is a joy. I should tell you that right away, especially if you, like me, know nothing of the Emily the Strange character beyond her goth-friendly branding. As a guy in my late thirties, I recognize I'm not the target audience for this book, but good comics is good comics.

Less sanguinary than Wednesday Addams, Emily Strange is a loner but only alone so she can pursue her own peculiar interests at all times, whatever they may be. In this case, it's a radio station music contest whose prize is a Lovecraftian electric guitar. Her song-writing skills get her the attention she wants, but she also never considered she'd actually have to assemble a band and play the song live to win.

I was glad to be wrong about Emily the Strange, which I pictured to be something more tongue-in--cheek gloomy, like a kids' riff on Winona Ryder's character in Beetlejuice. Instead of disaffected darkness, I found a character who's an active, inventive thinker and a resilient, independent hero to kids with big imaginations (even if she wants to be left alone most of the time, and let's face it, we all did at times when we were kids). I don't know if she's always been so lovable, but Emily kinda rocks.

For me, a big part of the appeal of the book is in the linework of artist Emily Ivie. Ivie stays on-model with the licensed character, but is able to get a lot of facial expressions from Strange with minimal strokes. With no formal training, Ivie's been doing her own under-the-radar series like The Locked Maze and Rotsterarsil, and Emily marks her first big gig. This is the kind of mainstream arrival that makes comic fans sit up and take notice. Ivie's eye for detail, character acting, and graphic design is formidable. I wouldn't fault anyone who bought this simply for the art alone.

(Emily and the Strangers #1 is part of a 3-issue mini-series. The first issue hits stands on January 30, 2013.)