Writer: Neil Gibson
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I “met” Neil Gibson about three or four years ago. By met, I mean Neil basically flooded my email box asking me to take a look at an anthology graphic novel he was working on called TWISTED DARK. I lost some of Neil’s emails and then I ignored a few others since my indie plate was already full. What a fool I was. TWISTED DARK was the modern evolution of the Twilight Zone concept, great stories and characters with a twist at the end. Only unlike Twilight Zone, Neil had taken the concept of less than happy ending to hyperbole – kind of like going to an Asian massage parlor and getting the chick with two prosthetic claws. Neil doesn’t deal in sunshine and flowers, he dosen’t even deal in reality where sometimes things actually do work out for the best – Neil is a shit who will doom us all and his first sequential four issue comic, TABATHA, is the epitome of his hatred for a brighter tomorrow.
TABATHA tells the tale of four twenty somethings living in Los Angeles. There’s Luke the mail carrier, his big brother and protector Fin, Fin’s girlfriend Baily and her Brother and Fin’s best friend Ty. It’s important to understand the intricate lattice of these relationships because it is the driving force of the story. While the plot consists of these four being undone by their dirty deeds, Neil needed to establish the kinship of the four to understand why each would continually enter the gaping maw of insanity for one another.
The four start the story in a bit of a Robin Hood adventure to get money to pay for Baily and Ty’s terminally ill Mother’s medical treatment. Luke basically cases empty houses while on his postal route and later that night the four swoop in. A fine and dandy plan until they one day stumble into the wrong house of an SFX maestro in the Hollywood Hills.
Luke is the first to fall once he discovers the SFX Troll, Gustav, has coveted a plastic fuck doll named Tabatha who he is trying to imbue with the life essence of real (kidnapped) women.
Sound incredible, almost ridiculous? Of course it does, and in the hands of another writer I would have walked from the premise alone. However, in knowing Gibson, I also know he has a way of making the seemingly trite rife with depth and emotion. For every ounce of twist in Gibson’s writing soul, live three greater parts of spotless and engaging character development. As each member of the gang falls, they are undone essentially by their own unique personality quirks. Luke falls because he is an asshat who goofs around on the job and does some unspeakable things to Tabatha as Gustav leeringly looked on. Fin’s Achilles heel is his natural predilection to protect Luke. Baily and Ty have different motivators, but their love for the other two certainly don’t help in avoiding Gustav’s evil machinations.
Gustav is naturally insane, however that’s not to say he is completely crazy. After much bloodshed and a surprisingly low lack of body count, Gibson gives the appearance that for once, he might actually let his protagonists live in peace. I won’t ruin the end, but it is certainly an indictment on the general male predisposition to treat real ladies like fuck dolls and a stark warning of the old saying, be careful what you wish for.”
Wijngaard is a tougher nail for me to hammer with review insight. Some panels are splendid and glorious with detail. Others feel a little too loose, almost like he had to sacrifice some painstaking detail so the book could meet deadlines. I don’t fault Wingaard because usually Gibson’s lofty ambitions are handled by several artists like in the TWISTED DARK short stories (now up to the sick and twisted Vol.4).
I usually wish all of my favorite creators the platitude of bigger characters with bigger houses so they don’t fester in indie obscurity. I won’t give that to Gibson and it’s purely my own selfishness want to hold him back. Some guys are simply meant for indies, crafting originality instead of trying to infuse a sense of originality into tired brands and product placement tent poles. I guess I could wish him luck in universes like Image, Dark Horse or Vertigo, but that would be it. I want more TABATHA and TWISTED DARK from Neil versus a bat emblem or a mutant massacre.