Review by Ian Keogh
Wet Moon follows an ensemble cast in an intimate and engaging fashion as they go about their days at college. It’s dramatic without falling into melodrama (except in instances when that’s deliberate as a means of revealing character) and consistently surprises. It was years ahead of the times with non-judgemental and unexploitative relationships, although there is a hint here, when the only lingering sex scene features the most traditionally attractive characters. There’s also quirky, observational writing, and the art has an instant appeal. Why is Wet Moon not as well loved as it should be?
The cover features Mara, lost and unfulfilled, pouring her heart out in Livejournal entries that receive no views, and now coming to some decisions about what she wants to be. It emphasises the subtlety of Wet Moon, and the thought that Sophie Campbell applies to the cast. She’s particularly good at revealing them during natural conversations that begin as trivial before surprising with a shift into weightier matters. The dialogue sparkles overall, as different voices are conveyed, some hesitant, some confident and others plain angry, yet they build personalities, and people that evolve. Having done her best to present Cleo as a sympathetic character over two books, Campbell begins Further Realms of Fright by dipping back a couple of years into the past and showing her doing something horrible, letting a friend down completely, which comes as a surprise. She’s not the only one harbouring feelings of aggression, as there’s an increase in the violence, as the heady brew of repressed and sometimes jealous attraction comes to the boil when Campbell moves her characters in unexpected directions.
Interestingly there’s a marker as to how good Campbell’s writing is. There’s a scene where several of the cast go to a Bella Morte gig, quoting some of their lyrics to reflect Cleo’s feelings at the time. What transmits most, however, is how hilariously clichéd those lyrics are, with their glum and obvious imagery, and yet there’s never a moment throughout the remainder of the book where the dialogue strikes as anything other than natural.
Campbell’s art is constantly evolving, the expressions ever better. Cleo’s eyes become larger, Trilby has more freckles, and there’s a greater storytelling confidence. For all her facility with dialogue, Campbell also knows just when to let the art tell the story. There’s a great scene around a third of the way in when Cleo comes to a realisation about Myrtle, and it’s there in her eyes.
Is there a problem with Wet Moon? Yes, but it’s minor. Campbell has now increased the cast so much that unless you have a steel trap memory there’ll be moments of hesitation as you have to recall exactly who Penny is, and how she connects with the others, as she’s only featured for a couple of pages initially. Several cast members presumably have an eventual purpose (Fall, for instance), but currently seem as if they’re hanging around to make up the numbers.
Wet Moon continues with Drowned in Evil.