It’s always interesting to see creators coming up with new visions or ideas in the horror genre. The past few years have been very good for horror in general with exceptional takes on movies, books and comics. Maya Lemaitre brings forward a variation on the haunted house tropes in Found, a short oversized comic about two longtime friends hiking in the woods. They walked along those roads often during their youth and they are reconnecting after a long time away. Along the way, they come at a crossroad they couldn’t remember was ever there and upon taking the wrong turn, come across a long lost historical building. There’s something genuinely creepy about the place and the rumours surrounding this building are frightening enough to make the experience uncomfortable. Things become even worse when a shadowy figure emerges from the forest and wanders near the well.
This story takes an historical location and asks whether a place can remember what happened in it in the past. Lemaitre story takes place in Newlands Forest in Cape Town and centers the ruins of a historic residence. She wonders whether a building, a forest or a pond remember what horrible things happened in it? Would this be considered a haunting, or a simple echo of a time where horrible things happened. This was a very interesting concept to explore, the fact that perhaps a haunting happens in a specific location as a result of a horrific incident is interesting. It creates a really tense atmosphere.
Perhaps even more interesting than how Lemaitre builds tension in this comic is the way she brings it down afterward. The girls flee from the shadowy figure and eventually reach a point where they are safe. They cool off and chat on their drive back home about what just happened and what they think they saw, both acknowledging that this incident will probably never be fully understood. They also wonder about the meaning of it all. Perhaps some places are just as scarred as we can be and that’s why we’re afraid of them. There’s something genuinely creepy in the way this is portrayed as a natural occurrence. About how it’s mundane, how it can happen anywhere, and then be relegated to past experiences and forgotten about. Lemaitre understands something about memory and how we live traumatizing experiences, and then we move on.
I’ve focused on the horror elements of the comic, but this is just but a single aspect of this comic. The most interesting part is the conversation between these two friends. Maya Lemaitre is outstanding at creating her character’s dialog. They feel genuine and natural. It’s the little thing that makes this comic exceptional. Lemaitre makes great use of negative space. Her comics take place along a hiking trail and uses negative space in key panels to focus on her characters or on specific elements like a piece broken piece from a vase. There’s also something interesting in the way she draws her characters. They’re tall, slender and expressive figures. They’re simple and terribly effective.
It’s quite unfortunate that Lemaitre is halfway around the world in Cape Town, South Africa. I may never see her other printed comics in person, but I’ll settle for adding found to my ever increasing array of “horror-themed” comics and will get her latest work digitally.
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.