The Girl in the Bay #1
Written by J. M. DeMatteis
Art by Corin Howell and James Devlin
Lettered by Clem Robbins
Published by Dark Horse Comics / Berger Books
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
After spending the better part of the last year in the satirical wastelands of Scooby Apocalypse, veteran writer J.M. DeMatteis returns to something a bit more indie for Karen Berger’s imprint at Dark Horse. Just don’t mistake the period setting and historical details for a straightforward coming of age story, as the writer weaves in elements of the supernatural into this intergenerational mystery.
The bay of the title is Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and as we’re introduced to Katherine Angela Sartori, the narrator and eponymous “girl,” she is sinking to the bottom of it while trailing blood. DeMatteis sets the scene for how she got there: the spring of 1969, just prior to the Manson Family murders, and the conclusive end of the summer of love. The troubled Kathy falls for a bearded young man during a night of partying and drugs, only to be brutally stabbed. When she awakens she discovers that she died, but that’s not the end her story. It’s now 2019 and a version of herself who didn’t die is alive and well in the Bay area.
In the back-matter, DeMatteis speaks about the long gestation period of this story, and it is clear that he has spent some time developing this concept. While the writer is unquestionably a few steps ahead of us, through Kathy we walk the same footsteps as the creator in investigating this hybrid mystery. Elements such as a green-tinged painting of an otherworldly diva remain delightfully unexplained, wrapped up in Kathy’s anguish as she has to deal with the triple threat of a loss of place, of identity, and of her family.
Tying much of this is Corin Howell on art duties. Her elegant line art on the opening pages gives Kathy a beautiful death as she falls through the water, a sequence later mirrored by a swirling starscape as she falls (metaphorically and artistically) into a handsome stranger’s eyes. The tenderness of the moment is matched only by the ferocity of her slaying, a bloodletting that still manages to drop a few clues that will undoubtedly come in handy down the track.
James Devlin’s color art links the various story elements together, with a faint green tint that links the past, present, and possible future. Props also need to be given to letterer Clem Robbins, who uses a mixture of upper and lowercase text throughout the book. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s not until you contrasting letters presented in this way that you realize how seamlessly a narration can transform into an intimate diary.
It’s clear from this first issue that DeMatteis has an idea that he has let fully gestate before bringing it to the page, something he credits his “truly gifted editor” Berger with developing to the completed script stage. It could go deep into revenge thriller at this point, or continue to explore something less tangible than that. The fact that it is hard to tell at this early stage is indicative of the hook that DeMatteis and his art team have already sunk into us.