The first known account of spontaneous human combustion comes 1663, when a woman in Paris “went up in ashes and smoke” while she was sleeping. The straw mattress on which she slept was untouched by the fire. Since then, hundreds of cases of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) have been reported. To this day, no one knows exactly why some people burst in to flame.
The book Spontaneous from Oni Press explores a series of SHC’s in a small town. One boy, Melvin Reyes, seems to be able to predict who is going to burn next. But what is his connection to these “burners”? How can he tell who is going to burn next? And how will he be able to explain to the police why he is always at the scene of the crime?
Joel Harris treads familiar territory with this story. Spontaneous, like Ghost Projekt, deals with a blend of the supernatural and the scientific. Melvin is haunted by a demonic voice that taunts him seems to know what is burning inside him. The voice pushes Melvin to the brink of insanity and the edge of control. But, is the voice really in control?
Harris slowly ratchets up the intensity, bringing the reader along, constantly keeping us guessing. Every time I thought I had it figured out Harris threw in another twist and took the story down a different path.
While Harris may have a firm grasp on the plot elements, he struggles with the relationships between the characters. Melvin is accompanied by a friend named Kenny who is the Microchip to Melvin’s Punisher. However, we are never given any indication of how they came to work together, or what Kenny’s relationship is to anyone else. In addition, Melvin is being “aided” by plucky reporter Emily. even though she more or less ambushes Melvin at the scene of the first SHC, he agrees to be interviewed by her. It doesn’t make much sense as far as characterization for either of them. However, she serves an important role in the story, so Harris had to work her in there somehow.
The art by Brett Weldele is fantastic. It is reminiscent of Ben Templesmith: moody and full of atmosphere. Full of grays and muted tones, the bursts of color that come from the spontaneous combustion really pop from the page. His faces are expressive and the characters move in a world that is barely sketched in, leaving the readers to fill in the blanks for themselves. Instead of geting bogged down in the details, the art immediately draws the reader to what is important.
In the end, Spontaneous is a book that gets better the deeper you delve. Unpredictable twists and turns keep the reader guessing until the last page. Find a copy today!