When I reviewed the latest anthology from New Zealand, Faction #2, a few weeks back, I mentioned how intrigued I was by the six-page short, “A Day At The Races” from the Sheehan Brothers. Through the magic of the internet I was able to get my hands on the precursor work, a graphic novel told in four parts called The Inhabitants. The other day I sat down in a comfortable chair to read these slim black and white volumes and was, in an instant, blown away.
The Sheehan Brothers are tapping into something softly churning in all of our subconscious – the archetype of comfortable discomfort. In The Inhabitants they are blending the best aspects of the Monomyth, the wonk of Morrison's The Invisibles, the dusty dread of Nosferatu, and all those liminal night-dreams we sweat through after a day filled with too much anxiety or a dinner consisting of a half pound of cheese. And while the Sheehans layer these familiar motifs into their book, they have created something so wholly original that, by the end of it, I quickly started at the beginning once more, feverish with the joy of discovery, enlivened by the possibility of happening upon a true artistic achievement.
Every writer knows how often semantics fail us, how words are but a display shelf for true expression, especially when it comes to trying to communicate depth of feeling. I had a profound reaction to reading The Inhabitants. It is completely immersive, but in a manner that keeps you as a reader off-kilter, aware of the fiction of it, as if the hand that beckons you through the doorway has seven fingers.
And this is a story about these sorts of passages. We go from Here to There in this book through portals disguised as doors. Here is our world in which sudden magical things seem to happen; There is another world altogether. Here, Tom discovers one day he can fly. There, he finds out he is not alone. What is happening There, though, is fantastic and surreal and dangerous. Characters with wicked hip monikers abound in this world and all seem to have tremendous powers. But The Inhabitants is no superhero story, it transcends that conceit entirely. It is something more. Vast. Potent. Art.
There is a Great Black Wave threatening this other world, There, “Apocalypse Waiting” – it has been held back for now, for awhile, but cracks have begun to form, fissures form passages, and what is on the other side is bad. Very bad. There is a group of people who are tasked to make sure this very bad thing doesn't happen. Our narrative guide is Tom, who is from Here, who has been brought There, just as we have. As things escalate, Tom discovers more about his new companions, and discovers more about the extent of his capabilities.
But this nutshell encapsulation doesn't even begin to describe what the Sheehan Brothers have crafted with this. As I said earlier, sometimes words fail us. This is one of those times.
Luckily there are other means of expression. Comics is one of those means. The Sheehan Brothers tap into the primal communicative power of the medium and unleash their psychic gnashing and gorgeous tale told. Everything about The Inhabitants works. Every aspect shows artists constructing – the layouts, the pacing, the lettering, the use of negative space – everything. It all works together to create this beautiful thing.
This amazing beautiful thing.
If you want a copy of The Inhabitants (and trust me, you do), you can contact Kelly Sheehan in New Zealand (ain't the internet something) directly at firstname.lastname@example.org