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NYCC: Addicted to Hemlock After SPX

Written by Amanda Comi on Monday, October 12 2015 and posted in Reviews

NYCC: Addicted to Hemlock After SPX

Hemlock is an engaging and addictive fairy tale with witches, critters, and gorgeous artwork.

Source: Hemlock Volumes 1-4

Creator Josceline Fenton describes her ongoing series Hemlock as "a fairy tale set in the forests of 19th century Scandinavia." Combined with the sleek, professional cover design, and the green sequin decorations on her convention table, this meager description was enough for me to buy the first four volumes of this series. Maybe this impulse purchase was made during a moment of weakness, or maybe my investment is an indication of greater magic at work, the same magic that Fenton uses to make her book so good.

The narrative follows a somewhat awkward witch named Lumi who lives in a house on the back of a giant snail. The snail speaks his own, adorable language, just one of a million details that help to build depth in the Hemlock world. Lumi's new familiar is a three eyed frog who is possessed by a recently deceased human boy named Tristan. Tristan is the point of view character who needs most aspects of this world explained, especially the story of the witch queen and her sons midnight, dawn, and daylight.

Lumi needs Tristan's help to help make a series of potions to keep her demonic monster husband asleep, a nod to the title, Hemlock. Her husband is later revealed to be an important member of magical royalty in a twist that is somewhat surprising and also somewhat expected. The combination cute details, of the expected and unexpected plot elements, add up to the feeling of a genuine fairy tale.

For the first volume, I wasn't sure if I liked the art style. Fenton applies very heavy black and white, high contrast illustrations. In some panels, her stylized and efficient artwork looks a little abstract and I get lost trying to remember what I'm seeing. I found myself craving color to help me interpret the world.

After adjustment I found the concrete black and white to be a good contrast with an uncertain magical world. Once the day and night themes were introduced, I was completely sold on the complementary art style. After reading four volumes of Hemlock, I found myself spellbound by how her drawings can somehow be organic and geometric at the same time. Generally, I know art is good when I like what I'm seeing, but can't explain why without contradicting or fumbling over myself. 

If you're lucky enough to live near London, Fenton will be at MCM Expo the weekend of October 23rd. If you're trapped in the states or some other second rate country, then you can check out Fenton's tumblr for a sample of her style. If you're interested in buying some trades, she has physical copies available, or if you're like me and you can't wait, read along as she updates the Hemlock webcomic online.  


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About the Author - Amanda Comi

Amanda is grumpy and crunchy on the outside with a warm squishy center comprised primarily of human organs. Much like a cat, she is easily distracted by pretty colors or flashy bits of foil. If Amanda notices that you’re busy enjoying yourself, she will start complaining and sit on your keyboard until you pay attention to her. By day she wrangles numbers from a cubicle, by night she sleeps, and by weekends… she also sleeps. She believes that comics can be enjoyed by everyone and looks forward to proving that hypothesis. She just barely does the twitter thing as @hermitiancat, but that's a good place to find her.

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