Emily is rather bored. She doesn’t know what to do with her time and all her latest inventions are a disaster. She listens to a spooky old Professor Kraken album on the radio and then the next thing she hears is about a competition to win the haunted guitar belonging to Professor Kraken – the greatest musician of all time! However, the guitar comes at a price and Emily must learn to mix with others in order to claim that guitar.
When I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a goth. I had just discovered an alternative clothing shop while on holiday in Scarborough. The first “goth” thing I ever bought was an Emily the Strange messenger bag and I wore it until the backside fell out of it. Ten years on and it’s maybe not a surprise to learn that I absolutely adored Emily and the Strangers.
The character of Emily the Strange was created by Rob Reger and he’s back with Mariag Huehner to give us a brand new Emily tale in the shape of Emily and the Strangers. The plot is nothing spectacular. Goth girl wants to be a rock star. We’ve heard it all before. To be honest, though, I really don’t care how clichéd the plot is and hopefully neither will you once you start reading. Emily is bored and hears about a music competition on the radio where the prize is a haunted guitar. Of course she wants to get her spooky little hands on it so she creates all manner of freakishly weird instruments and attempts to make something masterful. It fails entirely and resorts to some simple guitar riffs. If you are expecting some wonderful twist as to whether or not she’ll win, then don’t bother. It would be pretty damn pointless to base a series around Emily the Strange joining a rock band if she didn’t win the competition. But it comes with a catch. To get the guitar, Emily must team up with the Strangers and take part in a “Battle of the Bands” competition.
Of course it sounds daft and corny, but that’s half the fun. What’s awesome about an Emily the Strange piece is Emily. Really, we just want to see her being all whimsical and having wee adventures every week and see what she does. Complex plots with grand overarching themes are not what this title is about so you may want to shuffle along and try something else Dark Horse has to offer. Hellboy in Hell, perhaps?
The art is gorgeous. Dark Horse have brought in a new artist for this title: The aptly named Emily Ivie. What else could she have drawn for?! Her art is pretty damn sweet. It keeps in with Emily’s typical look but Ivie still manages to put her own spin on it. The trademark black and grey look is still there in the character, but there’s a lot more expression in the eyes now. It creates a lot more scope for Emily’s mood and means that when she’s grumpy, she looks wicked. There are lots of really interesting layouts, too. The opening page is stunning. The kind of thing you could probably expect to find on an Emily the Strange t-shirt. It features the inside of Emily’s brain, which resembles something like the Penrose Stairs, topped with an attic that looks like it’s straight out of a haunted house. In the background, some Victorian-esque wallpaper creates a beautiful and creepy backdrop. It’s great and a fantastic thing to open up the book on.
This is the first Emily series to appear in full colour and Ivie (who does pencils and colour) does a great job with the colour palette she has chosen. While the black, white and grey look is still there to keep the overall feeling of an Emily book, the colour choices do not remove anything from the gothic tone. The most prominent colour (next to black, of course) is red and it appears in creepy shades and tones that just seem to fit the character perfectly. I currently carry about a bright red Emily the Strange purse (so I don’t lose it in my bag!) with “Wish you weren’t here” plastered across it in black, and this comic made me think of that. It’s a great colour scheme that only seems to add to the feeling of the series. It’s the kind of look that wouldn’t be out-of-place in an early Tim Burton movie.
A character Emily comes along later in the issue, Evan Stranger (do you see what they did there? Word play is fun!), also has a great look to him. To contrast with Emily’s overall black and red look, Evan is coloured black and blue. He looks like the kind of character you’d find on a My Chemical Romance CD sleeve. He’s very cute and I can’t wait to see what they do with him next month.
Another fun little quirk with this issue is the pull-out poster in the middle pages. I’m a total sap for pull-outs like this (I buy the collected editions of Marvel and DC Comics that you find next to the kids’ magazines in newsagents just for the posters). So this one is getting pulled out quick-smart and plastered about my desk in my office. It’s a mock-gig poster, covering all the info you would find on the comic’s cover but laid out in a way that makes it look like it’s advertising a concert. Overall, it’s adorable and I love it.
All in all, reading Emily and the Strangers made me feel like being a teenaged goth again. It was ridiculous fun and filled my head with the possibilities of the following issues. It may be a done-to-death plot, but Emily makes it awesome.
And I now swear to start using the word “zorking” whenever I want to curse and to start screaming “For the love of Physics!” whenever things don’t go my way.