Book Review: Black Stars Above
“Looking into its eyes that first time, I saw new and old. I saw beginnings and endings and in betweens all at once. I saw how lost one could become in the blackest of blacks”
Black Stars Above is a horror graphic novel written by @lonnienadler, drawn by @jangling.jack, colored by @20eyesbrad, and lettered by @HassanOE. It’s also published by Nightfall, which is the autumnal imprint of @thevaultcomics focusing on horror stories (THE PLOT, which I reviewed last month, is also from this imprint).
SUMMARY: The year is 1887 and a storm brews. A young fur trapper flees her overbearing family only to get lost in a dreamlike winter wilderness that harbours a cosmic threat. The fur trade is dead and the nation is changing. Yet, Eulalie Dubois has spent her entire life tending to her family’s trapline, isolated from the world. A chance at freedom comes in the form of a parcel that needs delivering to a nameless town north of the wilderness. Little does Eulalie know, something sinister hides in those woods and it yearns for what she has.
To say this book is simply about a girl who leaves home for a dangerous, spooky adventure is seriously underselling the material. Yet I’m struggling with how best to write about it. There’s so many layers (of plot, ideas, philosophies, scares, etc) happening simultaneously that it’s difficult to express an opinion with divulging too much information. This is definitely one of those stories that needs to be experienced to attempt at understanding it (I’ll explain the “attempt” part below). But is it worth experiencing? That gets a strong YES from me!
I love the way the story is told and the strong cosmic horror elements. I will say this is probably the most reading I’ve ever done in a graphic novel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The format of narration-through-journal-entries gives it the feel of an old school text-based horror game, or maybe one of HP Lovecraft’s short stories (especially because, ya know, “cosmic horror”). I particularly like how during the narration there will be times that words/phrases are crossed out and rewritten, and by studying what was changed it gives you a greater understanding/appreciation for the character’s internal emotions and perspective (there’s an example in the pictures below).
Like I said, the cosmic horror elements are strong in this one. I love it because there are so many bizarre and unsettling scenes, plus a constant layer of dread blanketing the tale like snow. The downside, as with most cosmic horror, is that not everything makes a lot of sense. Instead there’s a constant tension between nuanced realizations and grandiose ideas. But hey, if you know what you’re getting into then you expect that kind of stuff going in. For me it didn’t really take away from anything (except for a nagging feeling like I was missing the greater importance of the overall meaning).
And therein lies the “attempt at understanding” I mentioned earlier. At its core this appears to be the story of a young girl, trapped by her circumstances (i.e. parents, setting, gender, and possibly ethnicity as well) who yearns to be free and experience the world. The journey is her freedom and all the strangeness she sees the experience. It’s a massive metaphor about coming of age, going out on one’s own, and identity – and yet it’s also so much more.
There are so many little nuggets of wisdom that bubble out of a melting pot of philosophies, such as “That which goes unspoken – those things we hide – are the truest of all,” and “Nothing truly has a name. Only the names we assign because we seek to shape them in our image,” and “Reality does not exist outside us, but is made from within”. There are also musings on God, Man vs Nature, the changing of times, duty, relationships, the other (worldly races or otherwise) and so on. But what does it all mean? And how does it connect to the other characters, the strange events, and the black stars above? That I don’t quite have all figured out.
Either Nadler is high as a kite and these are the ramblings of a madman, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing… or he’s way smarter than me and this is a deeply profound portrait of humanity and coming into adulthood. I prefer to think the latter. Either way I’d love to pick his brain over these things and the story he created.
story journey experience is one worth having, and I’m actually excited to read it all over again and try to suss out more of the mystery. But first, my brain needs a break. Thank you so much to author @lonnienadler for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Check out the Nightfall line from Vault Comics! I can’t wait to see what else they put out. If you want to learn more about The Plot, then go here: https://www.comixology.com/Black-Stars-Above-1/digital-comic/813394