Story: Hubertus Rufledt and Helge Vogt
Art: Helge Vogt
Publisher: Titan Comics
Deep in an old cemetery, a host of dead characters await their final fate as they are joined by a young, doe-eyed girl who cannot remember who she was or why she awoke in a coffin. This is the interesting setting of the first volume of Alisik, a gorgeous gothic series by Titan Comics. With it’s Burton-esque feel and decorative, atmospheric pages, this Alice in Wonderland (or rather, Alice in the Afterlife) book will attract those with a love of the gothic drama. While the art is dreamy and quirky and a jewel for the eyes, the story doesn’t always measure up.
Rosy-cheeked Alisik is truly trying hard to be a lovable character from the get-go, but the way she is written, she doesn’t come across endearing at all. She’s confused about where she is and what happened to her, which is all fair, but she’s also rude, condescending, and quite selfish throughout this first volume. It’s a bit hard to relate to her, but I guess I can see that a teenager of her circumstance might be exactly this way.
Less forgiving, though, is the lack of a real arc of the plot. More attention is paid to the world-building than the actual story: there is no clear middle and end, even for a series that will be continuing. There is supposedly a conflict, that never really is addressed other than in asides, which are labeled interludes in the pages. While the characters are all playing a waiting game, it still would have been great to see a clearly defined story arc.
The logic isn’t always explained either, even though much of the world is well-fleshed out. I tended to scratch my head a lot while reading the volume, asking myself questions that I never encountered answers to. For instance, I wondered how things easily go through Alisik, yet she can try on and carry bundles of clothes, and that sort of thing.
Sometimes, some of the aforementioned interludes are interesting and at others they are distracting during a search for the main story. I did, however, love the design of many of the pages of rules and interludes. It was all very artistic and beautiful to look at, similar to The Corpse Bride. It even has a song, which made it more reminiscent of that movie, but the rhymes were not always on point. Lastly, some of the text was a little difficult to read since the bubbles were transparent in places. Otherwise, the letters were great.
In the end, I felt transported into a spooky, surreal world for over a hundred pages, which was jolly good fun, but I continually found myself searching for the right trail to follow in this world. You know, the one that would lead me to a grander story designed to engage me with the characters, and I was disappointed that I never happened to stumble upon it.