It’s a dark and stormy night in this latest adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story from Dark Horse, both in the life of the Writer at the heart of it and in the tale he’s trying to tell. You see, the Writer is trying to tell a serious literary tale that reflects the truth of the world in his text. The problem he has is that in his tale — that of an orphaned woman on her way to become a governess to two children of a man whose cruel glances she found both repellent and fascinating at her interview who is turned out into a storm by a mute carriage driver only to wind up at the house without a name on the night of all nights — keeps slipping into self-parody. As he laments this recurring issue, the Writer is forced to deal with various household issues. Such as his deformed Aunt Agatha who is acting up again in the attic, the sudden reappearance of his long-lost twin brother who immediately demands a duel to the death, and the various things that skitter in the shadows of his mansion.
If the title of this story wasn’t enough of a clue, then it bears mentioning that you’re not meant to take any of this remotely seriously. It’s basically Gaiman, and by extension Shane Oakley who adapted the story and provided the art, goofing on the many tropes and conventions of gothic literature. A little familiarity with these things, as well as some patience, is required to fully appreciate what’s being done here. Still, the “wink and a nod” approach works with respect to the humor and the sillier bits in this story. There’s also some cleverness to be had in seeing the Writer realize that the the solution to his woes may lie in that most disrespected and least reputed of genres: fantasy. But what form does fantasy take in this kind of gothic world? Gaiman has an answer that works, and it’s a credit to Oakley and his stylishly pointed art that it’s as satisfying as it is in graphic novel form.