Review by Ian Keogh
The Librarian’s dreams are infused with the stories from the books that surround him, and from which errant forces can propel fictional constructs into his library, or he can interact with them through the books themselves. The reason a week is spent in the library is that enables seven different tales, each horrific and each with a different mood from the remainder. The gruesome opener of a man scooping his own eyes out is followed by a funny animal crime story, which in turn gives way to a text and illustration piece in which a real world visit to the doctor is presented as a fairy tale taking a very nasty turn. The Librarian has a specific task for each day of the week, and that’s the introduction to each tale.
W. Maxwell Prince has never lacked imagination, and in 2017 hit upon the idea of the Ice Cream Man to connect his assorted short horror stories, but in 2015 he hadn’t quite mastered the style, so One Week in the Library can be seen as a dry run for what followed. It’s ambitious, and in places very clever because in addition to straightforwardly told comic stories, Prince messes with the format. As well as the text and illustration piece there’s an almost diagrammatic musing explaining the Librarian and his confinement, an enigmatic wordless sequence about the cruelty of nature, and a merging of fiction and reality.
Everything is pithy horror in various forms, yet there’s the additional meta-layer of Prince commenting on fiction as escape, metaphor and comfort using archetypes and fairy tales, all of which needs an adaptable artist. John Amor is that man, very tidy with everything that’s thrown at him, and willing to put the background detail into making a library look like a library in panel after panel.
Prince’s ending confounds all expectations by drifting into autobiographical confession if you’re prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, or if you’re not, into what authors consider getting their excuses in first. It’s certainly self-indulgent, but works as an ending thematically by being a form of storytelling differing from those seen previously. As a project One Week in the Library is imaginative and clever, but the form takes precedence over the stories themselves, and that’s something Prince would later overcome.