Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Sickness in the Family

Written by Denise Mina
Art by Antonio Fuso

This is one Vertigo Crime book that ended up being pretty creepy.  In A Sickness in the Family, a British family of means disintegrates utterly and completely.  The Usher family (a little heavy-handed with the naming) is full of the simmering resentments that most families have, and just about everyone in the family has a secret, but as the book opens during Christmas dinner, they are more or less functioning.  Sure, the parents are in counseling for the wife's extra-marital affairs, the daughter is unhappy that her father isn't funding her business venture, and the older brother is hiding a pretty big secret.  The youngest son is adopted, and has not ever been fully welcomed by the whole family.  The aging grandmother is mellowing nicely, but everyone else remembers what a terror she used to be.

During this dinner, the couple that lives downstairs get into a massive fight that culminates in both their deaths.  After that, the father decides to open a huge hole in the middle of his house to build a staircase to the recently acquired ground floor, and things start to go weird.  One by one, the members of the Usher family meet accidents and have their secrets revealed, as the dwindling number of survivors turn on each other.  There may be a supernatural element to what's going on, or the explanation may be more pedestrian than that.

Mina does a great job of ratcheting up the tension with each new chapter, and as the list of suspects shrinks, everyone begins to look more and more guilty.  The story is told through the perspective of the adopted teenage son, who is pretty much the only nice person in the comic.  Fuso's art is serviceable, but doesn't really stand out.  Still, this is a pretty impressive piece of work from an imprint of an imprint that keeps improving.

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