If we can trust editor Rachel Edidin (and who wants to live in a world where we can’t?) then Emily Strange is a pretty big deal. And indeed, looking at the history of the character, something pretty fascinating has been going on here. Originally created by Rob Reger as a mascot for his clothing company, the character has somehow made it into cartoons, graphic novels and computer games, and now advertises guitars, make-up, and soda. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be a single medium this character hasn’t made it to yet.
A cat owning black-haired inventor, and curator of innovation, I’m not entirely sure what it is about the character which has inspired so many companies to invest in her and create merchandise surrounding her (her next move looks to be into film), so I decided to pick up the new issue of her new series to see what’s going on. Written by Mariah Huehner and drawn by Emily Ivie (with a writing credit for Reger), the latest Dark Horse story featuring the character is a fun and light piece of work, which borrows from Scott Pilgrim without ever straying too close.
The idea for this miniseries, which looks to be three issues long, is that Emily is bored and needs something to do with her time. So she messes around with gadgets in her laboratory (helped/hindered by four adorably-drawn cats) for a while until ultimately deciding to try and write a song to win a competition. This is where the book reads a little close to Scott Pilgrim, with the same style of character acting in a similar-ish storyline. Supernatural elements stumble into the storyline from time to time, creating a hyperfantasy world in which everything is played for silly laughs rather than anything else, while Emily herself comes across as a mixture of Scott Pilgrim and Daria.
But that’s not saying this is unoriginal or anything. In fact, the writing for the issue is rather fantastic. The majority of the comic is set solely in Emily’s basement, as she messes around, talks to herself, and chides her cats. Huehner does an excellent job in making sure this feels exciting and entertaining, setting up an atmosphere where anything can happen – and tends to. Her Emily comes across as a fully-realised, enjoyable protagonist, taking the audience for an exploration through her endless inventions. The comic suffers as a result once a storyline comes into place and Emily has to leave the basement in order to interact with other less-interesting people, but those first two-thirds offer great entertainment.
Emily Ivie’s artwork is a phenomenon in the issue. Every panel is filled with an astonishing amount of detail and care, and proves to be just as inventive as the character herself. The basement seems full of life and inspiration, with tiny details suggesting worlds of possibility for the World of Emily Strange – in essence offering the story a more expansive feel. She manages to give expression to the characters whilst retaining a cartoony style which is vibrant and defiantly silly – clever ideas are sandwiched in-between deliberately goofy body language and some silly visual gags. The creative team here have something very special, and hopefully the next two issues will serve to highlight that.
Emily and the Strangers #1 has the benefit of a wonderful grasp of character and style. The artwork is exceptional, the dialogue fast-paced and light. If the narrative itself can pick up a little over the next two issues and bring the energy from this issue into the ongoing story, then I could well see myself being won over into the masses of Emily Strange fans.