Oni Press, 2009
Hardcover Graphic Novel, 102 pages
Jesse sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that go bump in the night that no one else can see. No one except his ailing grandmother – a woman who used her visions to help those living in her small town… the same rural community in all the scary stories Jesse’s heard as a child. Man-eating ogres in trees. Farmhouses haunted by wraiths. Even pigs possessed by the devil. Upon his grandmother’s passing, Jesse has no choice but to face his demons and whatever else might be awaiting him at grandma’s house. ~Publisher’s comments.
The Publisher’s Comments for Lola : A Ghost Story make this graphic novel sound more atmospheric than it really is. I mean, the idea that Jesse sees dead people alone makes for creepy idea. And it is disturbing when it happens (when you realize it is happening). But overall, I was hardly frightened. What it was though, was compelling.
(page 1) okay, maybe it does start out on the right foot for a “scary story.”
Jesse’s grandmother has died, bringing his family to her farmhouse in the Philippines for the funeral, a place haunted by the stories his uncle and cousin insist on recalling, stories of his grandmother’s youth and her legacy of a supernatural ability. The stories are not the only thing haunting the farmhouse.
The mystery of who JonJon was and what happened to him unfolds as Jesse comes to grips with who he is via his grandmother, still a bit overwhelmed by its most surreal/folk lorish qualities. Torres & Or cleverly reveal JonJon and the extent of Jesse’s abilities over the course of the story. They explore both the curse and blessing of it, and end with an honest uncertainty. Moments of terror and triumph find a balance in a young life just beginning (and as another has ended).
The story is told in sepia; the gentler contrast softens the blow of a story cast in black. The renderings of the characters are very expressive, appealing. The narrative easy to follow, a well-crafted partnership of text and image. Beginning in subtlety, transitions blur with the ambiguity of what is really occurring and what Jesse is seeing. Stories come to life alongside other more disturbing things–like ghosts, and unforgettable sorrows.
I found Lola on the Teen Graphic Novel shelf, but Powells books categorizes it under Juvenile fiction. For the maximum effect of creepiness, Powells has it right. As for the Teen Shelf, is it the last page, 102? After some sense of victory, a perilous, but otherwise positive result of his gift, Jesse is reminded of the more tormentive aspects. The cover and the style of artwork appeals to the young set, but the upper end of Juvenile fiction may find the last page appropriately haunting without permanent damage…or would it. I enjoyed the shift back into the dark and disturbing, the tipping backward into imbalance and intrigue and uncomfortable ideas–and the idea that Jesse is still trying to find his voice.
Additionally: You get a bit of cultural education: words native to the Philippines are given translation in small print at the bottom of the page. old traditions meet new external influences and the more modern era. a marvelous setting compliments of Elbert Or.
So, Lola : A Ghost Story should be good and creepy for the younger audience. I should try it out, but I can never tell how these things go with Natalya (newly 11). If I can coax her away from her Hardy Boys mysteries before the book is due back, I will let you know how it went.