3 out of 5
A comic that gets in its own way.
Park ranger Ryoko finds American Portia in the famed Aokigahara forest (the Suicide forest) after a failed suicide attempt; Ryoko is familiar with the call of the spirits of the place… but Portia sees and feels something much different, and much more alluring. Ryoko finds herself putting up Portia in her home, wondering whether it’s better to forcefully prevent her from re-mingling with the forest ghouls, or to let her go her own way…
Writer Desiree Bressend plots a somber and muted contemplation on responsibility: What Ryoko owes this stranger; what she owes herself; what she owes her past. Brilliant hatched, moody and murky artwork from Ruben Gil, following a (relative) good and evil blue / red color scheme, is the best match possible for this kind of tale, and the interconnecting covers from Toni Fejzula – also using the color scheme – again serve to elevate this, tonally, above standard horror comic fare.
Unfortunately, the writing is a bit too tepid, and focused on theme, to develop its characters, making the time Ryoko puts into Portia, and her emotional investment, never really land, and Gil stretches panel convention perhaps a bit too far to follow on occasion, and the limited color palette makes it hard to discern exactly what’s occurring when the script requires cuts back and forth between present and modern day. And disappointingly, while we get some good glimpses of creepy forest dwellers, it’s too little; it’s a drama masquerading as a horror book. Which would be fine if the drama was as manipulative and hard-hitting as its pacing and tone suggests it should be.
The non-El Torres writers for Amigo usually have a hard time matching the head honchos abilities; Bressend and Gil deliver, overall, a compelling read, and one that’s gorgeously designed, making the time spent between the covers worthwhile even if the overall impact of the story is nil.