Something wicked this way comes in Hopeless, Maine, but judging by my first read of this Archaia release, I’d say it’s just another day on this haunted landscape. Hopeless, Maine is a neo-gothic/manga series in the vein of H.P Lovecraft, Gaiman and Lord Dunsany. The series is done by husband-and-wife team Tom and Nimue Brown, who have been hard at work on The Hopeless, Maine storyline since 2009 when they released The Hopeless Vendetta, a weekly fictional newspaper that charts the day to day shenanigans in Hopeless.
Trapped on an island off the coast of Maine, the people of Hopeless find life a little darker and more dangerous with every day that passes. The number of orphans rises continually, but who can say what happens to their parents? Plenty of the bodies are never found. This is not the stuff of happy, careless childhoods, it is instead fertile ground for personal demons. In Hopeless, the demons are not always abstract concepts. Some of them have very real teeth, and very real horns.
I’m not going to say that Hopeless, Maine is a book for everybody. The characters in the book aren’t dangerous in your usual sense, and I think that is mainly due to the manga inspired artwork that gives everything a certain level of androgyny and playfulness. A bit too pretty for my taste, but that’s my opinion. Our protagonist, Salamandra, is palatable as the strong, haunting, powerful Rastafarian witch/something else, with a wicked case of schizophrenia. There are levels to Salamandra’s life that she and those she comes in contact with have yet to see, but what we do know of her does help propel the story forward…slightly. There were a few questions I had about how she wound up abandoned in a mansion at the beginning, to be eventually found by Annamarie Nightshade, her spiritual mentor of sorts, but I trust those and other questions will be answered in future works.
The spooky vibe is heavy and as thick as the ugliest New England fog. That, I will say, is due in no small part to Tom’s muted artwork. If dream-like is what they were going for, they certainly achieved it. I’m reminded, while looking at his art, of those turn of the century paranormal photos with a Cthulhu added here and there for good measure. The blue magical glow that Salamandra gives off occasionally is literally lifted off the sepia pages. In fact, whenever she does “her thing”, which incidentally happens whenever she’s mad or trying to prove something, is so brilliant, color wise; the fanboy in me wanted to see her fuck some shit up each time she did it, but the writers are tactful and clever in its use despite my laments.
Hopeless, Maine is more mood than anything else as of “right now”. The story, although mysterious and magical, reads a bit unfinished for this first graphic. The conflict seems less interesting than the world itself. I wanted to know more about Salamandra, but the arc kept turning in undesired directions. For this first installment, precious time was wasted on other things, when getting to love or hate our hero is paramount in the first few pages. In the creators’ defense, we do get to see Salamandra fight a demon…once, and as good as that might have been, there needed to be more. Maybe not more fighting, but definitely more emotion, and that’s what I thought the story was lacking. Bits and pieces of Salamandra’s life and how it ties into the backdrop could have been cleverly sprinkled throughout the story, giving the reader some sense of “I see.”
Hopeless, Maine is tween lit. Too many stories have risen of late that categorized what this would become before any ink was spilt…and that’s okay. I too enjoy the occasional House of Night or The Hunger Games, but I’m curious if this is what the creators were going for. If HM is to become something I would want to pick up, a level of desperation needs to be added to the equation. Real stakes, true life and death and not this fluffiness that pervades right now. Look, I’m not saying that doughy eyed heroines are cheesy, but combine that dough with some real pain and you have a story or at least a story I’d like.
Wanna know more about the creators? Checkout some of their websites: