I’ve been blown away by the selection offered from DC’s horror imprint Hill House Comics and as each new series has explored different aspects of the genre, I’ve been patiently waiting for Daphne Byrne #1. A six-issue miniseries written by Laura Marks with art by iconic horror artist Kelley Jones, colors from Michelle Madsen, and letters by Rob Leigh, it combines the occult, ghosts, seances, possession, and revenge. I’m going, to be honest, all of these things are my jam individually, put them all into a comic and you should be ready for a spooky time.
In Daphne Byrne #1, set in Victorian-era New York, 14-year-old Daphne Byrne’s father has died, leaving her alone with a mother who’s consumed by grief. Daphne’s mother is the prime target for a group of occultists that promise to help her communicate with her dead husband. While her mother seeks solace in paying a medium to communicate with her husband, Daphne retreats into science, into the graveyard, clinging to her father’s headstone in order to feel some sense of closeness and acceptance that she lost when he passed.
Ridiculed by the girls at her school, Daphne stands out, a gothic princess in a room of girls fit for a boarding school. The difference in art when illustrating Daphne and the brighter world around her is noticeable and done extremely well. Daphne looks out of place, in the best of ways. Jones’ art is beautifully reminiscent of penny dreadfuls and the choice to set the miniseries with Spiritualism as the backdrop was masterful.
If you’re unfamiliar, spiritualism developed in the late 19th century as a movement based on the belief that the spirits of the dead exist and have both the ability and the need to communicate with the living. Spiritualists, the practitioners and believers, the mediums and the ones coming to them see the spirit world as one that evolved around our world. At its height, Spiritualism brought out a slew of scammers and became the center of many 19th and 20th century stories. From the Winchester Mystery House to Harry Houdini, the world of spiritualism is rife for the horror picking and seeing it in comics was a perfect addition to the Hill House Comics’ line-up.
Daphne Byrne #1 leans on a history of spiritualism for both the real and the scam. While Daphne’s mother pulls her into the room and Daphne quickly debunks it we also get to see Daphne’s encounter with a spirit who invades her world. The interactions between Daphne and the world, both living and spirit, are written extremely well by Marks. They feel real, filled with grief and frustration, Daphne is the sad goth girl and that hits my horror heart as I’m sure it will for other readers who have been that dark souled outsider. Additionally, Leigh’s lettering is also superb using different styles to portray a spirit and the living.
Sadly, there wasn’t much to this issue beyond set up. While this is perfectly fine for a first issue, it lacks the punch that other from Hill House Comics had, and with a killer cover that immediately made me scared to look in the mirror in fear of what may be behind me, I expected a little more fear to radiate from the page in way of story. That being said, I can’t wait to see more of Jones’ arts and monstrous bodies in future issues.
Overall, Daphne Byrne #1 is a decent start with exciting elements that keep me tuned in for the rest of the series. I’m excited for the potential of this miniseries and I can’t wait to see more of the occult and Daphne’s goth looks later on.
Daphne Byrne #1 is available wherever comics are sold.
Daphne Byrne #1
Daphne Byrne #1 is a decent start with exciting elements that keep me tuned in for the rest of the series. I’m excited for the potential of this miniseries and I can’t wait to see more of the occult and Daphne’s goth looks later on.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.