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Best Shots Review: Bog Bodies 'a harrowing tale' (9/10)

(Image credit: Gavin Fullerton/Rebecca Nalty (Image Comics))

(Image credit: Gavin Fullerton/Rebecca Nalty (Image Comics))

Bog Bodies
Written by Declan Shalvey
Art by Galvin Fullerton and Rebecca Nalty
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Killian is just a kid from Dublin wanting to spend the night playing video games when he’s called out for work. Does he know when he answers the door that he could be facing his final night? Driven out to the woods thinking it’s to get rid of a body, he spends the night running from two killers, Keano and Gerry, because of a botched job. In what could be the last hours of his life, Killian realizes that he has to pay for his past sins, both on a spiritual and a practical level. Writer Declan Shalvey, artist Galvin Fullerton, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Clayton Cowles give Killian a chance to face his crimes as he finds an injured girl, Neev, in the woods. If he can safely get her out of the woods, this could be his chance to die with some kind of absolution. But does he even deserve it?

Fullerton draws Bog Bodies with a thick, inky line. Sometimes it looks like his pages were drawn with a big magic marker. This approach creates an air of weight and suppression in this story. This isn’t an airy or breezy story as Fullerton’s work captures the way that the night both protects Killian but the way that it also confuses and disorients him. Killian’s world on this night is reduced to this dense and chunky environment that has him trapped. Fullerton’s quick, gestural lines infuse an immediacy in this book, capturing the danger that Killian and Neev are facing while on the run for their lives. The art in this book highlights the impending danger of this story. 

A lot of times, Irish dialogue can come off as parody especially on the comics page, but Shalvey’s writing draws from his Irish upbringing while capturing the desperation of the characters. His use of local idioms and slang gives a natural voice to these characters. The dialogue, full of the local language, gives shape to these characters and who they are. Whether it’s Killian and Neev’s fear, Keanu’s resignation, or Gerry’s determination, Shalvey’s dialogue coalesces with Fullerton’s art to let us know who these characters are. Their creative partnership has an economy to it where both creators are putting just enough on the page to pull us fully into this story. There are ways to play this story as melodrama or even as part of an epic but Shalvey and Fullerton show restraint and keep this a personal, dark little story. 

But that doesn’t mean this is a small or insignificant story. This is a tale of life and death and the journey to one of those fates. Rebecca Nulty’s colors cut through the darkness of the story, providing light and direction for the characters. She’s constantly aware of the light source in a way that provides an escape for Killian. It either points to safety or reveals danger but it nearly always provides warmth over Fullerton’s ever-present darkness. But it’s not always safe, like when Killian and Neev find refuge in an old woman’s fire-lit cabin. The firelight casts a dull orange hue over the scene, providing a respite from the danger but not rescue from it. It’s not an intense fire that could keep danger away; it’s more of a dying fire that itself is struggling against the outside darkness as much as Killian is. 

So does Killian deserve to live or to die? After all, it’s his mistake that he now needs to pay for. Neev, this lost, injured girl in the woods, could provide for him the forgiveness he needs if only he could save her. This girl he finds in the woods, who gets caught up in his mess, is someone he could save, and maybe that would offer him some kind of salvation, a balance for the life he took. But if Gerry and Keano find her with him, she’s as dead as he is. In many ways, Bog Bodies is a journey to death for people who are already dead; they’re just trying to outrace the bullet. 

As the story begins at sunset and finishes at sunrise, Shalvey and Fullerton use this night to question how do you live when you know that you’re going to die? Building off of his Savage Town, Shalvey grows as a writer here, delivering a harrowing tale as Fullerton draws a tale that’s as dark as the black night sky that frames nearly every panel of this comic. 

Scott Cederlund

Scott is a regular contributor for Panel Patter, GamesRadar, and Newsarama, covering comic books since 2002. He specialises in comic book reviews, and also runs the blog I Lost It At the Comic Shop.