In 2004, Oni published a series of horror comics. In typical Oni form, these comics were produced by some of the best artists and writers in the business at a time when horror comics were not as prevalent in the market as they are today.
Closer was written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Mike Norton and Leanne Buckley. It centers around a gathering of retired scientists at a secluded mansion on an island. They have been summoned together by the mysterious Dr. Graham Butcher to revisit an experiment they were all a part of some 30 years prior.It is a pretty cliched set-up, complete with the dark and stormy night, flickering electricity, and phones that don’t work. There is even the convenient “animal interferes with the scientific machinery” thrown in to the mix. It is your pretty standard scary story set up.
I am willing to spot a story a pretty run of the mill setup. All stories have to start somewhere and there are a real limited number of viable starting points when you have a limited number of pages in which to tell a story. But, once the story gets going, there has to be some originality.
Unfortunately, Closer is a hit or miss affair. The characters are a definite “miss”. The scientists are next to impossible to tell apart, and that has nothing to do with the art. They all seem to be cut from the same cloth, character-wise. I was glad when the bad guy started killing people. It meant that I had fewer of these drones to keep track of.
The m ain character, Serena, is the daughter of a deceased member of the group. She is completely out of place, and there is little to no reason for her to be in the book in the first place. It appeared that Johnston couldn’t muster up enough of a personality for any of the other characters, so he had to import one from somewhere else. As a character, Serena is fine. There is nothing special about her. She stumbles through the book conveniently finding clues and making discoveries that the other PhD’s have managed to miss.
The art is capable if unexciting. Norton and Buckley do a fine job visually representing the story. However, there is nothing added to the story through the art that adds to a sense of tension or fear. Since these storytellers have the benefit of words and pictures, I would have hoped that they could have created a more chilling or suspenseful atmosphere.
The story does do a good job of blending elements of science, magic, and religion. It borrows liberally from both Stargate and The Fly, but at the same time creates something new. The concept is good, but the execution is flawed. Both of those stories have rich potential for action, tension, and fear. Closer focuses more on revenge, and I believe that is where it really falls apart.
There is no real reason for the antagonist to act the way he does. There was no real reason for the antagonist to gather all the scientists together in the first place. With the basic premise of the story so flawed, the characters and the action needed to be tight, engaging, and intense. Unfortunately it just does not deliver.
If you are looking for a horror, suspense, or murder mystery comic, you could do much better than Closer. If you are looking for a book with an interesting premise that begs you not to think too much about the whys and wherefores, then Closer may be for you.