Brielle and the Horror #1: Actors Come to Graphic Fiction

I picked up a lot of comic books at the recent Wizard World Con in Philadelphia. A lot of comic books. None of them have stayed with me as much as Brielle and the Horror. I picked up a copy on that first Friday and immediately returned to the creative team the next day to give them a heaping dose of positive feedback. I pulled a couple of wayward guests over to their table, as well.

This is the first issue of a live-action graphic novel. The creators have used real actors to portray the characters in the book and then photographed the “panels” in sequence to the story and then hand drew over the photos to create a pretty unique-looking piece of art. The only time I remember someone doing anything like this was Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man) on his early work, like AKA Goldfish and Jinx, but it didn’t seem to be done to the same extent as this. I can’t begin to tell you how strange it was to see the “actors” at the Loaded Barel stand, read the book and then see the actors again.

I tend to pick up books based on the writer or a concept rather than the art, but this is a book that you can’t help but look at over and over again. I think it’s the first comic book I’ll have to review on cinematography merits, as well, and in that case it rates an “A.” The creators could have showed off the pretty leads in school-girl outfits throughout the book to gain an advantage in certain markets, but they went for art over titillation. The backgrounds are amazing. Every panel in the book stands out as brilliant painting and it continues for the entire read.

Don’t think for a moment that Brielle is all about a one-trick art device, either. The story itself is dark and fascinating. It deals with a young girl, Brielle (duh), who witnessed her father’s death five years ago. She’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life and move on and do the things that 16-year-old girls do. She goes to school and worries about boys and who she’ll go on a date with to the big carnival.

Barel captures those moments of teen-age awkwardness and anxiety with precision. During one scene in the school hallways, Brielle is being teased by some of the guys. They know about her past. They read about her father’s murder and how Brielle had to endure years of therapy and – as teenagers are – they feel no compassion. Brielle is rescued by one of the varsity guys, Scott, when he tells the bullies to take a hike. It’s a major victory for Brielle not because the teasing has stopped, but because Scott knows her name and recognizes her from their health class. Priorities of the young…

The book tackles everything from sex ed to the pro-choice debate as we’re introduced to the main characters in the book. A nice touch is the sort of old-world font they use for the priest, reminiscent of the style of text in Bibles.

As the story gets moving, things get a little darker. It seems there was something a little more to the death of Brielle’s father than she’s letting on. Or maybe she just doesn’t understand the whole truth of that traumatic event? But something strange is going on, and it’s not just the way Brielle’s eyes turn translucent when she panics. I’m not going to give away every single plot device and surprise of the book, but remember, the thing does have the word “horror” in the title.

The only fault I can find with Brielle and the Horror is that this is going to be a difficult book to follow on an individual basis as it seems best suited for the trade paperback route, based on the length of time it takes to produce a single issue. They have to write the plot and then a script for the actors to read from and act out. Then they have to shoot the actors and then translate it all to comic book form (and that’s without all the standard production details involved in creating a comic).
Regardless of how long an individual issue takes to come out, I know I’m going to be first in line to pick up a copy of the second issue (and the third, and the fourth). It’s definitely “The Find” of the con, and I’m looking forward to seeing the careers of this amazingly creative trio skyrocket in the months and years to come.

For a look at the art, as well as ordering information, head on over to