Review by Frank Plowright
Spectacle concerns the Samson Brothers touring circus and sideshow in the late 1800s USA, and when first seen the train that transports it is stuck in the desert, and supplies are running low. The central character is Anna, who fakes fortune telling, but actually has methods of surmising the future with considerable accuracy, although these take more time than can be allocated to customers as the circus tours. Others seen include her twin sister Kat, a knife thrower, a fake mermaid who prefers to stay in her tank, and under fire circus owner Jebediah Tetanus, rocking the then fashionable Colonel Sanders look. However, as seen on the cover and sample art, Kat isn’t around for too long, at least not in mortal form.
The circus has an instinctive lack of trust when it comes to the police, and a murderer among them is something to be investigated in-house. Anna is charged with carrying it out, but while smart she’s always been the more withdrawn of the sisters, and is accompanied by Kat’s more forthright ghost offering bickering advice and commentary.
Although Megan Rose Gedris pitches Spectacle as a whodunnit mystery, the warmth of the story is Anna gradually forced from her isolation and coming to know the people she’s lived with for fifteen years, but never really considered or appreciated. She also learns a lot more about her sister, and the way the personalities are peeled back or revealed offers several delights.
Because it’s not conventionally attractive, Gedris’ art may take some getting used to, but she creates and defines the cast well, and gives them suitable emotional responses. More variety when it comes to the viewpoints and storytelling would offer a fresh perspective.
Starting with the exotica of a circus and the period instantly supplies an atmosphere, but Spectacle captivates because Gedris keeps throwing in moments of interest, either small concerning a person, or surprising progressions, such as Kat not being the only ghost Anna can see. There’s a fair amount of tease concerning who may or may not have killed Kat, and with Spectacle Book Two to follow, there’s no revelation here, but plenty of suspects and Gedris has opened the door to several associated subplots. Spectacle isn’t plotted with collections in mind, and the strange ending doesn’t work as a teaser in the way it would for a monthly comic as it’s too bizarre. Still, pretty well everything else intrigues, so a very readable start.