“Sight Unseen” is a new hardcover graphic novel from Image. It’s beautifully produced, with fantastic production values, nice coloring and terrific reproduction. But (you knew I was leading up to a “but”, didn’t you?) this comic really didn’t grab me very much.
Maybe I’m not the perfect audience for a comic like this, since very few comic books have ever really scared me. A few issues of Moore’s Swamp Thing gave me the shivers, and some of the Clive Barker books from the ’90s were cool and spooky, but by and large horror comics just don’t scare me. And despite how beautifully done this book is, it never really scares me at all.
Perhaps the problem is that the story feels a little contrived to me. The main character is Frank Byron, a blind neuro-physicist who invents eyeglasses that somehow are able to detect when there’s supernatural activity around him. Naturally Byron gets involved with very bad goings-on at a quiet house in a small town. Yes, you guessed it; the house is haunted by a very violent and angry pair of ghosts that the locals call “pixies.” The pixies kill some locals, but finally (spoiler alert) Frank triumphs, and as a by-product, the whole thing makes him much closer to his college-age daughter.
It’s a shame the story feels so familiar, because there are several very clever little side stories that I found really interesting. For example, the obligatory story of the evil ghosts attacking a couple out in the wood having sex is changed by having the couple be a pair of fat, middle-aged people rather than nubile teens. There’s another clever, slow and spooky scene where a house carpenter is attacked by a ghost that really had me on the edge of my seat. And there’s clever business with an apple in that scene that strikes the perfect chord.
But too much of the story feels ordinary to make this book worth its hefty cover price. You’ve seen the core elements of this story too many times to really feel like it’s fresh. Writer Robert Tinnell seems to have the kernel of some interesting side stories, but there’s just not enough of them here.
Artist Bo Hampton delivers a terrific art job, though. His gorgeous line work and sumptuous coloring really add to the story. Hampton does great work with clever effects in the story. His ghosts glow in eerie ways, and he’s great at portraying the dark moodiness that Tinnell seems to want to convey. I especially like the way Hampton draws characters that seem to be weighed down by the pressure of their lives.
Hampton’s art is gorgeous, but there’s just not enough interesting story here to make this book anything very special.