Review by Frank Plowright
As we’re told on the cover, Mason Mooney investigates the paranormal, those inexplicable events that may or may not involve creatures, matters and manifestations beyond rational explanation. He’s not short of confidence, but not taken seriously by TV investigator Trent Reilly, local heart-throb around Grimbrook. Still, Trent didn’t see fit to respond to Iris’ letter about a problem in her household, so she’ll settle for Mason investigating it. That problem is Iris’ annoying older sister being troubled by ghosts keen on playing pranks for which Iris is blamed. Mason turns up with his suitcase full of equipment and soon produces results.
Seaerra Miller taps into the zeitgeist for spooky, and ethically uncertain reading for teenagers, serving up a small portion of danger and creepiness alongside a lot of laughs as Mason goes about his business. Why does he carry a heart around in a jar? We learn that, along with how he honed his investigative skills in what’s part illustrated story and part graphic novel, Miller switching between the storytelling methods whenever it suits. The text and illustration pages tend to accompany explanations, while the comics move the story forward. Using either form Miller is a very effective illustrator and storyteller, her bright pages having an instant appeal, and the goofy look of her cast adding to it. She’s great with a pin-up, and care has been taken in making the book a tactile experience as well, the cover design part glossy and part matt, and encompassing raised elements.
Miller’s characters are extremely well defined, their personalities all relatable, and her consistently inventive sense of humour applied to an eccentric cast ensures engagement from the start, and in common with the children’s stories of an earlier era there’s a moral message to be absorbed as well. This is one hell of a first graphic novel, and there’s comedy gold in the idea of a boy without a heart, and both Iris and Mason Mooney return in Doppelgänger Detective.