Graveneye is one of the more unique horror graphic novels out there, let alone TKO Studios, which put their money where their mouth is to publish something that very few other publishers might touch. It's bloody, gory, obsessive, and transgressive, and it's a shame it fails to deliver.
The story is an adult fairy tale narrated by the house it takes place in. The house is a witness to the sadness and horrors of its sole occupant, a reclusive woman named Ilsa who has shut herself away from the world to hide her nature. Marie, a frail, abused woman, comes to work for her as a maid and slowly falls in love with her mistress, a possibly misguided passion that leads to a bloody climax full of transgression, body horror, and murder.
Ilsa is a monster who can only express love by killing and creating sculptures of flesh and bone out of her objects of affection. She's a predator who needs to kill to sate a thirst that never ends. The sequences of her hunting and maiming animals in the woods are long-drawn-out and fetishistic. It's clear that author Sloane Leong identifies deeply with Ilsa, making her a stand-in for the artist with an uncompromising vision as well as an allegory for the LGBTQ outsider. Unfortunately, the story also becomes predictable and tedious. The outcome of the story is heavily telegraphed. Not a lot really happens in the story since it's a mood piece that doesn't have a lot of plot. By the time the evitable outcomes arrive – Marie slowly discovering Ilsa's secret, Ilsa giving in to her growing desire and lust for Marie, the wrath of Marie's abusive husband – it's all so unsurprising and lacking. We've already gleaned all the meaning the story wanted us to get more than 30 pages earlier and are stuck with an overlong and dull climax. It shouldn't take nearly 200 pages to tell a story in which not very much happens. The story would have been more shocking and impactful if it was told in less than 100 pages, closer to the length of a European graphic novel.
Another drawback is the art by Anna Bowles. She clearly worked very hard on it, but it looks unpolished, like rough sketches rather than the final version. The poses and anatomy are stiff; the faces are often inconsistent and, overall, lack the lushness and elegance needed to convey the immersive atmosphere needed for this type of fairy tale gothic horror. The characters' hands are especially awkwardly-drawn, and in a story where touch is a major thematic, dramatic and visual recurrence, that is a problem.
The most interesting part of the story is that the house narrates the tale like a bedtime storyteller, but overall, it would have made a more emotional and thematic impact if it had been a much shorter book.
Graveneye is now out from TKO Studios.