At Last the Light is a gothic tale set in the nineteenth century, a tale of ghosts, fog and abandoned lighthouses. Will it sweep you up to Wuthering Heights or send you plummeting down as dramatically as The Fall of the House of Usher? Let’s find out.
This latest title from Blue Fox Comics tells the story of Eliza, a headstrong young woman who lives with her wheelchair-bound elderly father on the coast. Noticing that the light from the nearby lighthouse is getting gradually dimmer, Eliza decides to take a boat and row out to investigate. What she finds is a mystery involving a horrifying plague, murder and the supernatural.
At Last the Light is written by Scottish author Simon Birks, the writer of The Thing on the Doorstep, Sparks and Hexes. It’s also available in both modern and period Scots. Birks is really channelling his inner Poe here which, for a writer of gothic fiction, is no bad thing. This story of two raven-haired women, one of whom may or may not be dead, certainly made me think of Poe’s haunting classic short story Ligeia. It’s a tale of isolation, despair and insanity as you might expect but it’s also exciting and a rattling yarn. As with many of Poe’s stories it’s quite short and at 24 pages it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
There’s some beautiful, atmospheric art from Anna Wieszczyk here, an artist perhaps best known for her work on Hell, Nebraska, Home and Tim’rous Beastie. There’s one splash page in particular when a character we think to be dead reappears, towering over her victim, nails like claws and eyes devoid of pupils, that’s particularly striking. The greys, blues and purples here really add to the sombre mood that Wieszczyk creates although her art is also not always perhaps what you would expect for a book like this. Whereas certain artists like Mike Mignola, Craig Russell or David Hitchcock seem perfectly suited to stories with a gothic sensibility, Wieszczyk has an almost manga-esque feel to her work with Eliza in particular bringing to mind Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux.
It doesn’t always work with some of the panels looking a little sparse in detail but it’s always enjoyable, well-paced and full of memorable characters. I can almost see the film version with Eva Green in the starring role, directed by Robert Eggers! At Last The Light is something different, no super-heroes, atmospheric and haunting and is certainly worth investigating.