Till death do us part…and maybe not even then! Following his death, a ghostly lover tries to reconnect with his widow – but does ‘for better or for worse’ really apply when your spouse is dead?! Find out in Natasha Alterici’s wordless graphic novel, Haunted Beloved!
Haunted Beloved opens in a gloomy setting – a funeral, with mourners clearly grieving a lost relative or friend. One mourner in particular sits distanced from the rest, the same mourner who closes the door in relief when the funeral goers depart. This is her story, her partner who passed away, her indescribable pain.
Once she is alone, the reader gets a clearer picture of what life is like for the woman left behind. The wordless panels need no speech to evoke the feeling of loss and emptiness that exudes from two living room armchairs, one now permanently empty, two cat ornaments, two china cups. The message is clear – without her partner, the woman feels like only half of a whole. Unable to continue looking at these reminders, she retreats to her bedroom to lie down.
It doesn’t take long for our ghostly co-protagonist to make his appearance. The following panels are rather heartbreaking, as we watch the ghost try to reach out to his wife, only to find that he goes right through her. He tries to hold her as she sobs, tries to wipe her tears, but to no avail. He is unable to provide any comfort. Both as alone as each other, they defeatedly curl up in the foetal position.
You may be thinking this sounds rather depressing so far. And you may be right. But there is hope for our two star-crossed lovers and the humour is yet to come! Angered by his inability to communicate, our ghostly hero takes a swipe at a mug on the countertop, and finds that he is able to break it (much to the shock of his widow). Thrilled that he is finally able to communicate in some way, the ghost sets about turning the house upside down – picture frames are moved, tidiness becomes dishevelment and everything enters into a cloud of chaos – he’s pretty happy with himself, too.
However, the widow, understandably, is unable to understand what’s going on, and does not appreciate these recurring disturbances. This is literally the last thing she needs. Coming to the end of her tether, she recruits a priest, witch and paranormal investigators to rid her house of this menace that is quite honestly making the grieving process ten times worse. This part of the comic becomes quite humorous, despite the serious subject matter. As this sequence of chaos from the ghost and rebuttal from the wife draws on and on, the ghost begins to finally consider that his presence may not actually be what’s best for his grieving widow right now…
I’m not always a huge fan of wordless graphic novels, simply because I find the plot can sometimes become a little convoluted without the assistance of the written word. But Natsha Alterici keeps the main message of each panel focused and very easy to follow for readers. The old-timey illustration style was great, and definitely drew readers attention to important moments and facial expressions in order to tell the story. A great example of relying on illustrations alone to eloquently tell an emotional narrative.