Sight for Sore Eyes: A Review of Sight Unseen
by Robert Tinnell and Bo Hampton
Sight Unseen, a new graphic novel by writer Robert Tinnell and artist Bo Hampton (Image Comics), combines all the elements of a good page-turner in one neat, slim volume. The book has complex characters, a tumultuous father-daughter relationship, a blind man who sees ghosts, a creepy old house… and of course, what good horror novel would be complete without a camping scene? But unlike schlocky camp-scene movies, there’s nothing hokey about Sight Unseen. In fact, the horror aspect of the story doesn’t dominate any of the other equally strong plot elements.
Frank Byron is a blind neuro-physicist who can see ghosts. It’s not what you think; get thoughts of The Sixth Sense out of mind. Frank has developed special glasses that allow him to see ghosts and that record electro-magnetic activity any time spirits are near. His daughter Molly is bitter and spiteful because of a dark moment in the family’s past; assistant Derek is, for the most part, a trusty sidekick but he’s got a tendency to poke his nose places where he shouldn’t, like into said dark family past. When people in their quiet Virginia town start disappearing, including Molly’s boyfriend, the three form an unlikely team and investigate the weird vibes given off by the old, creepy house in town: The Birches.
The story has lots of drama, lots of creepiness, and a heaping helping of dark humor: a gentleman who excuses his drinking with the claim it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, a searing battle of sarcasm between Derek and Molly (she humorously calls him “Professor Shithead,”), and of course the campers in the camping scene, probably the humorous highlight of the story and sadly short-lived (quite literally).
It’s the artwork that really moves the already-strong story along. Hampton’s depictions of the characters are all spot-on, from Molly’s constant scowl to the depiction of the evil lurking at The Birches. The panels play out frame by frame, seemingly sequences from a movie. The dramatic action is portrayed in pages that are a meld of dark colors, with one prominent color throughout pulling the eye from one frame to the next: the similar purple-blue shade of Molly and Frank’s clothes; the yellow splotch of light that is the only source of illumination in The Birches; the red of an apple in the scariest sequence involving a piece of fruit you’ll ever see.
The book includes a section at the end of Bo’s original sketches and some of the e-mail exchanges between Robert and Bo as they developed the plot, giving readers a fascinating look at the way such a richly developed story began. Sight Unseen is a solid read for those who love a good horror story, those who love graphic novels, and anyone who loves a solid plot and complex, believable characters. Tinnell and Hampton plan to work together again, so we can expect to see another formidable contribution from this collaborative team — though sadly not a story starring the ill-fated Sight Unseen camping couple.
Raquel B. Pidal is Managing Editor for Wild River Publishing, providing copyediting, content editing, and manuscript analysis services. She enjoys using her extensive knowledge of the writing and publishing process to provide guidance and coaching to writers every step of the way from idea to polished draft to printed book.
Raquel has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience in both fiction and nonfiction. Her projects have included ghostwriting two memoirs; content editing numerous manuscripts in the fields of memoir, fiction, and business; copyediting and proofreading manuscripts; and providing in-depth analyses and critiques of fiction and nonfiction manuscripts.
Raquel is currently the Editorial Director for Winans Kuenstler Publishing, a high-end trade nonfiction publisher that offers ghostwriting and publishing services to business and thought leaders who use their books as a platform for their professional and personal brands. She is experienced in project and content management and book distribution.
Previously, Raquel worked in the publicity department at Harvard University Press for two years. She has also worked as an editor for corporations such as ETS (Educational Testing Services) and Aramark. For three years, she served as Program and Youth Services Director at the Writers Room of Bucks County, where she and Joy Stocke worked together on the literary magazine The Bucks County Writer.
Raquel has a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing from Ursinus College, where she won several awards and honors for her writing, and an MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College.
Articles by Raquel Pidal
Book Reviews: Voodoo Lounge
Essays: Around the Block
Letters From Around The World: Cuban Couch
PEN World Voices: The Future is Now – Opening Night at the 11th Annual PEN World Festival