This isn’t the first time Neil Gaiman is appearing in this column, and it won’t be the last.
Gaiman is, of course, the best-selling author of comics such as Sandman, Marvel: 1602 and a new version of The Eternals, and novels such as American Gods and Anansi Boys. He is arguably one of the best writers of fiction around, and definitely one of the finest writers of comic books. As such, you can buy a Gaiman without any fears of being disappointed.
Or so I thought, until I encountered The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch, a small and well-produced comic book written by Gaiman (and illustrated by the redoubtable Michael Zulli).
This is a new book from Dark Horse Comics, and its previous small and well-produced comic books by Messrs Zulli and Gaiman (The Last Temptation and Creatures of the Night) are both among my favourites.
Both have the Gaiman touch — a mixture of high fantasy, keen writing, and that touch of irony, joy and sadness that characterizes all his works.
Miss Finch, unfortunately, does not.
The story, of course, will not be new to Gaiman fans. It previously appeared as a short story in one of the collections put out by the writer (Smoke and Mirrors). As a short story itself, Miss Finch was not the best of Gaiman’s work. But writers are allowed to have off-days, too, and readers can be forgiving about this, especially if the work in question is part of a collection of short stories where some of the others more than make up for the disappointment.
The unfortunate thing about the Dark Horse comic book rendition of Miss Finch (a new book, published this year) is that even Zulli disappoints. His work has a certain deadline-nearing feel that robs it of the life and character it otherwise displays.
Miss Finch is simply the story of a writer who is supposed to go to a show in London with two of his friends and a woman (Miss Finch) that his friends have begun to know (and whom they do not particularly like). The show is cancelled, but a surprise invite arrives from a circus.
Only, it is not just any circus. It is a circus of the macabre and the fantastic and, halfway through it, Miss Finch is carted off by what appears to be a man in a monkey suit or a gorilla. She appears in the finale of the show, which requires the viewers to walk through a succession of rooms, as a bare-breasted jungle woman/goddess with two pet sabretooths.
Her companions never see Miss Finch again.
I hope I never do either.
Write to Sukumar at firstname.lastname@example.org