One of my favorite things to do at any comic convention is walk up and down the aisles of artist alley. Sure, it's fun to meet some of the so-called "big name" comic book creators like George Perez, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mike Perkins, Greg Rucka, Jose Delbo, and so on. But I know their work, and I see it so many comics from DC and Marvel and some of the big indy companies, like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and Dynamite. But what I love is going over to artist alley and discovering some of the most amazing (and, admittedly, some not-so-amazing) books that are not just a job to bring home the bacon, but a labor of love, sweat, and hours and hours and hours of hard work.
The first volume of Touching Evil is definitely one of the amazing books!
Admittedly, I did not pick up that book right away - I came back by and bought it on my second go around - and ultimately had him do a sketch in my Nancy Drew faux-cover sketch book. He did an utterly beautiful job with re-creating the cover to The Clue of the Leaning Chimney, and although it is now nearly two months since the convention, I have finally had the time to sit down and read his book.
Wow. I mean, really. WOW! This book totally blew me away. The story of Ada Mansfield and how she is given the power to literally kill people with the merest touch - how it not only affects her, but the people around her - her family, her boss, her friends, and her new-found enemies. Ada is not a superhero, and this is not a story about superheroes. This is a supernatural tale about a woman who gains a "gift" that some view as a curse, while others would do just about anything to get their hands upon it (pun intended). It is realistic, it is dark, it is all-too-human, and it takes a look at the age-old question of just what defines good and evil - when is someone truly good, and when is someone truly bad? And what happens when a good person gets led down the wrong path? There is nothing simple about the story, and Dougherty moves the tale so fluidly, that when I finished this first volume, I felt as if I had just walked out of a really, REALLY good movie.
Which brings me to the art. Dougherty draws people like people. He draws the backgrounds and surroundings like actual places and things. There is no fancy "style" to his art, and there is no attempt to try and create some signature look (which is major problem I have with a lot of comics today, where I may enjoy the story, but the art becomes so stylistic that it overpowers the actual writing - The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Patsy Walker, Hellcat come to mind). Instead, Dougherty's art compliments and helps move the story along. There are no wasted panels, no unnecessary splash pages, and no "sexy poses" that are so prominent in the DC and Marvel and Image titles these days. Dougherty tells a story, not just with his words, but with his art - and that, my friends, is what comic books are supposed to be about!
Do we find out everything about Ada and her son? Do we know everything about her private eye friend? Do we get the entire backstory about her boss? And the book? And the curse? No - but we get enough to give us just what we need for the story at hand. Is there more to tell? Undoubtedly. But that's a mark of good storytelling - give the reader enough to keep them coming back again and again. And with "The Curse Escapes," Dougherty definitely has me coming back. Volume Two will not be coming out fast enough!
Anyone interested can find out more about his book and his other work at his website, http://www.beardocomics.com/touching-evil.
RATING: 10 witches burned at the stake out of 10 for telling a story that is worth far more than the price paid for it and making me glad I picked it up!