Spirits: The Soul Collector
Written by: Colin Lawler and Joseph Grabowski
Art by: Colin Lawler
Review by: Kristopher Johnson
Give heroes on the pursuit of supernatural evil any day! Movies like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter have sparked my interest over the last few years. And let’s not forget the oh-so popular brother duo Sam and Dean of Supernatural. There’s evil at hand and we (as fans, of course) need someone to take them down. Whether it’s for the safety of mankind, or the dedication of vengeance, these characters kick ass in the best way. But most of these creatures are tangible. Werewolves and vampires and witches (Oh my). In “Spirits”, it’s just terrifying apparitions. Seriously, the big ones are basically large horrifying lumps of dark energy. How the heck is anyone supposed to beat a ball of energy? Our protagonist doesn’t know either, but he’ll do anything for his brother. In this 2 chapter comic, Lawler and Grabowski let us follow the story of a boy who goes from skeptic to believer.
Will catches his brother Kenny talking to an “imaginary friend” who he swears is real. Will dismisses it as his younger brother just being a weirdo. Their mother takes them on a long drive to visit their grandmother, Miriam, for a week (They call her Nani, it’s precious). Kenny asks Miriam about the spirits, and they have discussions that Will wants to understand. She says she’ll explain later. During the night while Will was sleeping, he’s woken up by a scream, and Kenny is levitating on the front lawn. Miriam is on her way, but breaks her ankle on the stairs. Meanwhile, the spirit with Kenny says it knows he’s a seer and takes his soul. Miriam gives Will a pendant to help save Kenny. Once he puts it on, he sees spirits all around the sky and the forest, even the one trying to run off with Kenny. He chases it through the forest, but then becomes spooked (rightfully so). He encounters a woman sent by Miriam, who saves Will by kicking some spirit ass. He turns around, spirits are gone, and she is holding a funky skull in her hand. They head back where Miriam is with an unconscious Kenny. Her name is revealed to be Norah, and she takes Kenny inside while Will helped his grandmother. Miriam tells him the figures were called dark spirits, and Norah would look after him. He asked her where she was going, but she said it was him who has to leave.
This comic was a great read for me. The writing has a decent flow and fit the characters very well. The dynamic of the brothers’ relationship is one that I favor. You have the younger brother who is enthusiastic and optimistic, and the older brother who is indifferent and dismissive. They didn’t get along for most of the comic, but at the end of the day, their love is demonstrates by the older brother chasing after the spirit who took Kenny’s soul. That’s love, guys.
Will frowns for about 90 percent of this comic. I get it, that’s who he is. For the other 10 percent, watching what made him smile was very endearing. The first time was not so endearing since he was making fun of his brother. The second time he smiles is when Miriam offered them cookies before bed. It was subtle at first, but it shows that even though he has an “I don’t care” preteen, boyish attitude, he still enjoys the simple things. For the third, Miriam was tucking them into the bunk beds their dad slept in as a boy. Will asked where his dad would usually sleep, and she told him the top bunk, right where Will was laying. In the next panel, all you see is Will with a huge smile on his face. I can’t lie…it pulled at my heartstrings. Sons who admire their fathers love to imitate them. It’s their first example of how to be an adult, and they find it so cool. Will chose his father’s bed with no prior knowledge. It’s charming to see how he feels about this father without barely any background to the reader. In reference to the father, the characters who spoke of him always used past tense, so it is inferred that he more than likely had passed away somehow. What happened? It’s not explained in this comic, but it gives us suspense to look forward to!
The art is beautiful. The first thing to catch my attention was the dark spirits on the cover with skulls as heads. We see them again when Norah finds Will in the forest. Bones and skulls are the coolest to me. I have bones printed on my favorite hoodie and socks at home. I have yet to collect any skulls, but it looks like they are the source of the dark spirits’ power. You don’t see the whole fight, but the dark spirits are gone and Norah is holding a skull in her hands. This is very important for Will to know, since all he has at this point is a pendant that allows him to be a seer.
I enjoy that the setting for Miriam’s house is on top of a hill in the middle of a forest. Not good for the fact that the spirits can hide all around the environment, but the first glimpse of her house is breathtaking. Mainly because of all the vegetation, including a huge tree sitting adjacent to the house, that panel is one of my favorites. A panel I did not favor was when Norah jumped into battle. If you start from top right corner where she is placed, it looks great. Then my eyes panned to the dark spirits who take up the bottom edge and left side of the panel. My gaze jumped all over the place, but that was due to too many textures that didn’t blend well with me. I also very much wanted to see Will’s face after his mom had to get his attention for not answering whether he’ll be nice to his brother or not. With that 1 extra panel, I would have envisioned it better.
There is a point in the comic where Will is fearlessly running through the forest, and stops after something goes “WHISH” right over his head. In one panel, you see him slowing down. Then there are 3 smaller panels next to it, all with him looking in different directions and with different expressions as he hears more sounds. None of them are sheer panic, but it looks like he goes from “What was that?” to “Oh no, now it’s over here” to “I’m genuinely scared now.” It’s brilliant to me! He had a huge rush of adrenaline at the start of his run, because all he wanted to do was save his brother. After he slowed down, he analyzed the situation and became more aware of the danger he was in. I also appreciated there were no lines in the panels to illustrate quick movements of his head. It made it much more realistic to me.
My favorite page was after Will put on the pendant and could see all the spirits around him. It’s a huge panel with a lovely scene of the front yard and edge of the forest through his point of view. On the right of the panel are 5 smaller ones all magnifying the ridiculousness that he is now aware of. Spirits…spirits everywhere! It’s like my favorite activity in the Highlights magazines when I was younger where I had to find the stuff in midst of all the cluttered chaos. Shout out to the mountain monster way in the background that didn’t get a smaller panel, and the spirit trying to take Kenny away that looks like a Heartless from Kingdom Hearts. I love it!
When I say the inking is well done, I mean it’s well enough to check out more of the artist’s individual pieces. The creators were recently at an expo in Chicago, and I stopped by their table. The table was full of marvelous work of art and Lawler was painting a piece he had drawn the day before. It was awesome to see him working in person. Both Lawler and Grabowski are very talented and left me wanting more. I can’t wait for the next issues.
Kristopher (yes, that is her real name) writes indie comic reviews for endoftheuniversecomics.com. Now residing in Minneapolis, she went to UNC-Charlotte majoring in Psychology and Becoming an Adult. She enjoys singing, drawing, learning guitar with her tiny hands, cheesy puns, and playing video games.