It Came From Inside The House: Reviewing ‘The Neighbors’ #2

It’s often hard to fully determine which is worse: the fear of the unknown or the fear of the known. Right now, Oliver, Janet, and Isobel are having to deal with a mixture of both these fears as the mystery of just what has happened to Casey continues to deepen.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle presents a very compact and personal horror story within this series, dealing with the very real and personal situations that many transgender people encounter in their lives. Fear born out of how others treat them and react to them if they know or suspect that they are transgender. Oliver’s withdrawal from the world that led them to this point is a powerfully painful moment, because he just wanted to be himself and live the life that he deserves but the constant fear, entirely justified, took its toll.

Yet, being always on edge because of justified fears has made him far more open to realizing the more hidden horror among them as there is clearly something wrong with Casey. We the audience (and her little sister Isobel) clearly see that she has been either replaced or transformed in some way and is not herself, yet the adults are still not fully there. Not yet at least.

Wrapping the real fears that a marginalized minority group must deal with into the fabric of horror is nothing new of course, we’ve seen numerous variations of it in recent times such as films like Get Out. Focusing on a transgender character, a Black transgender person at that, and their family is a great change because we need to see more stories from every single possible diverse community that exists out there. Wrapping these stories around something as common and easily understood as horror makes them even more powerful and can extend their reach and how they connect with people. Using genre as a delivery system to tell diverse stories in a very commonly homogenized space is a time-tested tradition that has worked.

Balancing those two types of horror is a solid match when writing and is the same when it comes to visuals. As we’ve seen in other stories that take the same approach, the elements that are common with horror stories are fitting for both realms. Letizia Cadonici brings that to the page so beautifully, with a style that really screams horror and darkness but also is very much suited to really maximizing the human exploration element of the story. It’s a loose-flowing style that captures some of the reality but also slips in some more exaggerated elements to play up the overall darker feeling.

So many great panel choices here as Cadonici is a great storyteller. With plenty of inset panels and close-ups and other varieties of panels appearing all over the place in order to really let the story have the freedom to move and for us to explore deeper.

Shadows are paramount to hitting the needed tone of the story but there are many other things that Alessandro Santoro does with the colors as well. In the opening pages about Oliver’s flashback there is a choice made to pull back most of the colors to leave things sort of gray but allowing flashes of some other colors to pop up such as some deep yellows and a blood red of a spilled drink that is made to be ten times more ominous than it would be otherwise.

We see this through the whole issue as some pages have far brighter flashes of memorable color that really stand out, while others are brought back down to a more toned-down quality, with the darkness creeping around always. With the changes to Casey, there is an effort to make sure that we the audience continuously remember that she’s got a darkness within her now, and that is done by the way that they always make sure to place Casey in darkness or bring down the light in each panel any time she arrives. She’s lurking in the darkness, shadows cover her face, the room suddenly feels dimmer, and other means to keep us on edge around the character.

All that darker edge is kept throughout the lettering in the issue as Becca Carey picks up the baton and runs with it. Little changes are made to the dialogue from Casey to be the equivalent of the visuals of her in the darkness, making her dialogue always stand out just a bit in appearance from others because she’s been changed now. Similarly, the choice to have Isobel’s bubbles to shift in size and shape as her words don’t fit into them fully, off center and shifting, is a brilliant way to fit in the fact that toddlers don’t speak entirely like older children and adults would. They’re still learning and throwing words around, and their speech type is often quite different than it eventually will become.

The Neighbors #2 is now available from BOOM! Studios.

It’s often hard to fully determine which is worse: the fear of the unknown or the fear of the known.COMICONRead More

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