Fir Val­ley

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

Ja­son Turner, 171 pgs, Cloud­scape Comics, cloud­scapecomics.com, $25

The mur­der rate of idyl­lic small towns nes­tled in the woods must be off the

charts.

Ja­son Turner’s Fir Val­ley joins the ranks of this bur­geon­ing small-town, su­per­nat­u­ral mur­der mys­tery genre, only with a Cana­dian twist — it’s Twin Peaks, adapted for North Van­cou­ver. The book in­tro­duces two teens, Car­rie and Jen, set­ting out to solve the mur­der of the lat­ter’s fa­ther, while res­cu­ing her kid­napped brother. Their in­ves­ti­ga­tion takes them across town, un­cov­er­ing a hid­den con­spir­acy and long-buried fam­ily se­crets.

In an al­ready crowded genre, Turner’s art­work sets Fir Val­ley apart. Its best il­lus­tra­tions are trippy, hal­lu­ci­na­tory vi­sions of eco­log­i­cal col­lapse. An­i­mals flee from the for­est en masse. A per­son­i­fied moun­tain causes a ma­jor land­slide, wreck­ing half the tit­u­lar town. An an­i­mal mask-wear­ing cult plots a sac­ri­fice in the dead of night.

These are cap­ti­vat­ing mo­ments that set Fir Val­ley apart from its in­spi­ra­tion. The pared-down panel lay­out and colour­ing are omi­nous glimpses into the dark­ness lurk­ing be­neath the town.

It’s a shame they’re weighed down with clunky writ­ing. Char­ac­ters trade off angsty one-lin­ers like dis­ap­pointed Hot Topic cus­tomers ask­ing to see a man­ager, be­cause the “past is an an­chor around my neck drag­ging me down into the murky depths of the fu­ture,” as one char­ac­ter puts it.

Mean­while, the book in­tro­duces char­ac­ters faster than it can de­velop them, leav­ing the mot­ley crew of would-be North Van­cou­ver res­i­dents feel­ing half-cocked. All the lo­cal colour of ag­ing rock­ers, hip­pies, and plucky punk hero­ines doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make for well-crafted char­ac­ters.

Turner gets enough right to earn the book’s place in the genre. But the bound­aries of well-es­tab­lished gen­res should be pushed, not re­in­forced. (Nick Pearce)

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