Review – Where She Walks’ Incomplete Urban Fantasy

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Where She Walks is an interesting and frustrating conundrum. It is a short Canadian comics series that, to my knowledge, was never completed. I both liked and disliked it with equal measure. It’s a conundrum because it’s frustrating to read, yet, despite this, it is fascinating. I found two print issues of Where She Walks when I was in Calgary, Chapter 0 and Chapter 1. Chapter 0 is a prologue of sorts but is indispensable to understand the story. I read Chapter 2 online and Chapter 3 was announced in 2016, but never materialized. Where She Walks is the result of a collaboration between siblings and artist Erin Millar, a poet, and Nathan Millar, a comic artist. It tells the story of a woman living her life oblivious to the fantastical world just beyond our reach that is affecting her life.

Chapter 0, the prologue of the story, is all poetic prose as our protagonist goes about her day and either has visions or a being from a parallel universe reach out to her. We then see a new world magically superimpose itself onto our reality, as our protagonist is unaware of what is taking place. Chapter 1 seems to begin telling the story in earnest, the tale of this woman, of her dissatisfaction with her life as a mid-level cog at an office. She begins noticing bizarre events occurring around her such as animals following her during her morning run or terrifying recurring nightmare. Chapter 1 is much more conventional in terms of narrative to the point of causing whiplash. The prologue is all about the art, and the words with a loose fantastical element around it, while the first chapter is much more focused in terms of storytelling. It’s surprisingly abrupt in terms of transition and feels unfocused, like reading a poetry book only for it to become American Gods on page 50. It’s not bad per se, but it’s tonally dissonant. Luckily, the second chapter expands on the mystery of the woman, and the people trying to help her make sense of it. And just as soon as the story is kicking into gear, it ends.

Prologue page from Where She Walks
Sample page from Where She Walks Chapter One

It’s too bad this story was never completed because there is a lot of potential there. It’s an urban fantasy tale, beautifully illustrated, accompanied by wonderful prose and complemented by a delicate muted colour palette. The colours are a big highlight of the series, remaining muted until we see magical elements into the world, then the colours become bright and vibrant. I saw many problems with the series because it never really coalesced into satisfying read, yet I can’t help but seeing that those quirks would probably be ironed in subsequent chapters. The prologue’s prose and narration are a bit too self-important and veers into clichés to an almost eye-rolling level once or twice, but is otherwise charming. It’s also almost entirely absent from the first chapter and that absence is detrimental to the rest of the story. I expected a poetry comic and landed in the middle of something different. The comics are urban fantasy, think Neil Gaiman’s “the fantastic and mystical is all around us if we could only see it”. While the elements of reality and fantastic overlap in the art, it isn’t quite so with the text from one issue to the next. It creates a sort of dissonance where the prologue would have been enhanced by dialog and the first issue would have benefitted from a little more magic, a little more poetry. It never quite catches its footing. The second chapter seems to blend things better and the comic is vastly improved as a result.

I feel like I’m being harsh with the prose and poetry of this comic, but it is actually nice, if perhaps a bit too simple for my taste. I like my poetry opaque. Where She Walks remains a frustrating read, the work of a collaboration between two siblings and accomplished artists searching for a proper way to coexist in the same environment. It almost works, but eventually it falters, It’s cut too short and is too ambitious for its own good. There’s plenty of good to be found in Where She Walks, I just hoped the project coalesced into a satisfying whole before being abandoned. Perhaps the future will prove me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing this series to the end.

Where She Walks
Erin Millar & Nathan Millar
Self-published, Webcomic, 2014-2015
$N/A