Veil graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-61655-492-7
  • Release date: 2015
  • UPC: 9781616554927
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Action Thriller, Horror

So many Greg Rucka projects have a woman as their lead character. Veil ticks that box, but takes a giant step away from Rucka’s usual clarity and comfort zone and moves his crime writing in the direction of horror. Veil is the name a woman gives herself when asked. We’ve seen her wake up naked on a deserted subway platform then wandering into the night in a sleazy New York area muttering Dr Seuss style rhyming doggerel: “Not hat not mat not flat… and what do you think of that?” She has the strength to rip locked metal gates apart, and by the end of the first chapter we’ve learned she has another disturbingly used talent. She falls in with Dante, whose opportunistic protection of a naked woman entirely changes his life.

Rucka’s name is a selling point and guarantees a certain level of quality, but it’s Toni Fejzula’s striking art that first impacts. He’s produced barely any other comics (in English at least), and is utterly distinctive, his influences seemingly rooted more in fine art, yet combined with a heightened sense for cinematic storytelling with innovative viewpoints. Aljoŝa Tomić shares the colouring credit with Fejzula, and their method of shading via splodges of colour is a far from standard look, but so, so effective, apart from the occasional panel where it can seem a facial tattoo. Circumstances call for a naked woman, which instantly raises alarms about objectification, yet the exemplary way Fejzula handles the story needs is pleasing.

Crucial to Veil’s circumstances is Cormac, who looks and sounds on loan from Warren Ellis, an arrogant, smart-mouthed weaver of tall stories unafraid either to deceive extremely dangerous people or to get his hands dirty in pursuit of magic. His self-satisfied dialogue reveals what Veil is before she attains awareness herself, and while we’re distracted by his smug posturing Rucka and Fejzula slip by a matter of substantial importance, likely to have been seen as visual counterpointing instead of story component. It’s nice to be fooled.

For all that, though, once the mystery is solved Veil is just a matter of following through to a conclusion that while not predictable, isn’t greatly surprising either. It means that while atmospheric and initially mystifying, Veil isn’t a story to return to beyond the art. The hardcover edition is labelled “1” on the spine, but this is complete in itself while leaving options open for a continuation.