To start with, if you do not know who Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley are, go find out. Go get their music now, seriously, now, I will wait! Okay, now that your mind is blown by all their goodness, on to the Evelyn Evelyn review. Evelyn Evelyn is the brain child, er children, whatever, of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley. They “discovered” these conjoined twins via a social networking site and decided to produce their album. The album is eerie, unique and fabulous, as is, spoiler alert, this book!
The book tells the tragic tale of talented and sweet sisters Evelyn and Evelyn. From birth, tragedy strikes these girls over and over again. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. Terrible people, terrible circumstances and terrible luck seem to follow the girls around, yet somehow the story manages to remain hopeful and the girls are so spirited that by the end they can handle anything. Throughout the story they do occasionally make some good friends, but that never lasts long, as it is just not in the girls fortune to have good luck. They continue on in their journeys and never seem effected by all of the misfortune that has been bestowed upon them. Through this tale of catastrophe there is a message of resilience and strength.
The art is wonderful. Cynthia von Buhler really captured the darkness of the story but manages to make Evelyn and Evelyn bright and optimistic. She really makes this story come alive with her images and really puts the final touches on a superb piece of work. There is also an afterword by the amazing and legendary Neil Gaiman. This is an all-star collaboration and absolute must read for all! -Jenny
What do you get when you take the tragically innocence (or innocently tragic) plot of an Amanda Palmer song (think “Oasis” or “Mrs. O”) combine it with the raw power and Gothic force of Jason Webley‘s style and ferment it for years? You get “Evelyn Evelyn”, the concept that has gone from one-off vinyl collector’s edition to a full EP to a stunning stage show to, arriving this week, a comic book (or Graphic Novel, if that makes you feel better).
Fantastically realized by Cynthia von Buhler, the Evelyn Evelyn story (titled Evelyn Evelyn: A Tragic Tale in Two Tomes) is both dark and uplifting, dour yet whimsical, and truly a creation of passion by both the artist and Palmer and Webley, who share the “writer” credit. Following the journey of co-joined twin girls from their bloody birth day to artistic success as singers is a sometimes harrowing prospect, especially at the beginning when every aspect of human nature and fate seems to be working against them. It is a rewarding journey not just because of the wonderfully surreal comments the book makes about loneliness, family, destiny and the life of a performer but also because of the unique method of storytelling that von Buhler uses to convey it.
Drawn in an almost child-like simplistic style yet with a great attention to detail, one almost feels as if they were reading a children’s book. The almost complete lack of transitional paneling and even action-to-action moments hearkens back to those big, simple cardboard-bound books so many of us grew up on. But this is no child’s tale. Beyond the grisly and often sickening content there is also the color palette; full of bruised purples, washed-out primary colors and heavy on the black. Cynthia von Buhler’s choices remind you on every page that what you are reading is a tragedy, and not to be taken lightly. Every character and scene tugs on the reader’s sense that things are not quite right in the world of these innocent and wide-eyed girls.
The writing is pitch perfect: bombastic and subdued at the same time. It generally takes the form of narration, allowing the artist’s pictures to convey tone and other, more subtle, subtleties. People familiar with the album or who have been lucky enough to see Evelyn Evelyn live will recognize most of the words and all of the plot, yet this somehow isn’t a problem. In its over-sized package and with its hypnotic imagery the Evelyn Evelyn graphic novel is not just a companion piece but a work of art on its own. By imbuing her work with a sense of otherworldlyness, von Buhler has created a fresh new world for the Neville girls to inhabit, one starker than the one conjured up by the album, one slightly less emotionally wrenching than the full performance on the stage but surely the most relate-able of them all. The cartoony proportions of the world and the characters, as well as the between chapter fill-ins (news articles and other miscellanea, ala Watchmen) allows us to put ourselves in the story far more than the other two mediums. Of course, this is also the problem with the book. The vivid characters sometimes appear stiff and lifeless with the lack of on-page action and their world, while fully realized, occasionally feel like great sets, rather than actual places.
The only other flaw that mars this otherwise ingenious work is the last act, which feels like a happy ending that has been retro-fitted to take away the blow of dark reality the creators have so painstakingly crafted. One wants to believe this very un-Grimm fairy tale ending but the rushed nature of the final pages leaves an unpleasant taste on the tongue. There is never any doubt that this ending is possible or even probable but the reader is left with lingering doubts as to how such a rainbow bright conclusion actually fits with the darker aspects of the book’s earlier tragedies.
All in all, this is not a book to be missed by devotees of the macabre or those who just like a little beautiful darkness now and then. I’ve already put the book on hold at my local comic shop, despite the digital review copy I have and not just for the attractive slip-case the two volumes are packaged in. “Evelyn Evelyn” is one of those books you can’t help but read over and over again, marveling at the poignancy of each page and the skilled storytelling it contains. -Husband