Writer: Craig Hurd-McKenney
Artist: Rick Geary
Publisher: Headless Shakespeare Press
It is no easy feat, the blending of Victorian scholarship with the popular medium of comicbooks. But The Brontës: Infernal Angria #1 seeks to do just that. Based on Charlotte and Branwell Brontë’s Tales of Angria (1832), Craig Hurd-McKenney and Rick Geary’s carefully-researched 96-page graphic novel takes on issues of grief and trauma, sibling rivalry, and the line between the real and the imagined. And, it does so in a way that both students of literature and fans of comicbooks will find informative and provocative.
Hurd-McKenney (Station Grand) signals early that this work is not a dry academic take on the fantastical world of the juvenile stories written by Charlotte and her brother. Infernal Angria centers on a magical doorway that opens into a whimsical land through which all of the Brontë siblings flee. They seek to escape the pain and isolation of Haworth Village, where their distracted father grieves their mother’s recent death. A seeming paradise, Angria is full of dangers that test the siblings’ loyalty to one another. And, it allows Charlotte to find her footing as a young woman growing up without a maternal figure.
Charlotte’s development across the graphic novel cements the author’s point: imagination is a powerful tool. Infernal Angria has a novel premise that makes us think about the role of collaboration and play in writing. Admittedly, that point is slow to evolve – this is a long comic, devoid of the sharp twists and meaningful transitions found in professional comics. And, it jumps across time and worlds in a way that can cause some confusion. That said, I thought Hurd-McKenney did a good job with silences. For all the exposition, this comic is not dialogue heavy. It uses the silent panel to excellent effect, vesting with an air of disquiet the siblings’ encounters with the denizens of Angria.
Rick Geary (A Treasury of Victorian Murder) is a perfect fit for this black-and-white coming-of-age comic. He sets clean and bold line work against a white background devoid of shading. The sharp and simple style evokes the bygone era in which Charlotte and her siblings came of age. His paneling was a bit less creative than his usual kinetic style. However, he does do an excellent job of telling the story through facial expressions and gestures. You feel the rushing emotions of youth as Charlotte and the other young adults struggle to come together and find solace in an imaginary world.
Check out other comics from Hurd-McKenney’s Headless Shakespeare Press. I look forward to future installments of the life of the Bronte siblings.