Similar to the first episode of Buffy, which tried to pull one over on viewers by having the girl be the vampire instead of the guy, Lip Hook begins by trying to confound readers with what kind of people Sophia and Vince are. The couple, who ride in like Bonnie and Clyde, are the first folks we meet in David Hine and Mark Stafford’s graphic novel, Lip Hook. Their back windshield is riddled with bullet holes and when Sophia sees a sign for “Lip Hook. Dead end,” she decides to take a chance, believing it’s the last thing their pursuers would expect.
Vince and Sophia are criminals. They may not have meant to make their destination Lip Hook but they’re not innocent tourists who made a wrong turn. Still, Lip Hook isn’t a town you would wish on anyone and you’re inclined to sympathize with them (like how you sympathize with Marion Crane when she pulls into Bates Motel with stolen money in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho). For protagonists that are easier to root for Hine later introduces Cal and Falcon, two locals whose situation mirrors the blocked train tunnel they explore, but if the town is blatantly supernatural (along with treacherous, fly filled, and seeped with gas), Sofia is, too, and possibly even more dangerous.
Sophia is the standout character. With her old Hollywood glam (wearing a head scarf while driving) and predilection for red, Stafford really brings her into the realm of horror by zoning in on two routines: wearing wigs and wearing sunglasses. Whenever someone makes direct eye contact with her, they seem to fall under her spell, so you always see Sophia being very deliberate about when she takes her sunglasses off. While it’s a cool action to keep track of, you have to wonder how necessary it is, since without her glasses her eyes aren’t especially noteworthy. It’s not like her pupils are a strange color, that would draw unwanted attention. She could control everyone all the time if she wanted (and one problem with the character of Vince is you’re never sure what he brings to the table, or whether he’s a true believer or a pawn). The glasses are just more dramatic.
They’re also ritualistic, and rituals are another important aspect of Lip Hook (both the book and the town). Sophia essentially starts a cult but one seeped in local traditions, not her own. The reason that’s important is cults are often used to vilify sexual practices that aren’t considered socially acceptable (those darn cults with their creepy sex orgies). Lip Hook makes it about intent. The old religion followed the same traditions but was peaceful. The problem isn’t the sex but who’s in charge.
Color goes a long way towards telling this story. Everything looks polluted and like a potential health hazard. Gender issues are also a concern, as townsfolk work themselves up into a witch hunt. Fans of Dark Horses’ recent comic series, Blackwood, should consider giving this book a try.
As for this reviewer, I realize Lip Hook sets itself apart by not relying on a point of view character but, as a result, you never get to know anyone too deeply. Had Lip Hook been told from Cal or Falcon’s perspective I might’ve preferred it, but Lip Hook’s residents are all memorable, and their guest’s a regular hellraiser come to roost.
Lip Hook goes on sale November 27th from SelfMadeHero.