Review: Rowan’s Ruin #1

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Rowan's ruin cover

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Mike Perkins

Colours: Andy Tory

Letters: Jim Campbell

It is the beginning of a dark and morbid mystery as Katie finds herself at the mercy of the horrors of Rowan’s Ruin in this first issue.

Rowan’s Ruin is a horror/mystery comic that follows Katie as she comes to live within a manor that the series gets its name from. The story starts with a flash forward showing Katie as she tries to flee from some sort of monster, before snapping back to 6 months ago to show us how she got to this point. Katie decided to opt in to a ‘house swap’ and trade places with a girl called Emily who lives in Rowan’s Ruin, a sleepy English manor. As Katie spends her summer there she starts to notice something off about the house. A lot of this issue does feel a bit like padding – while a lot of the scenes do have a small hint of foreshadowing in regard to the events that are going to happen. Though while it helps to imply that Emily knows something that she didn’t let on. These scenes do really add to the build up and the mystery of it all, we have seen what is going to come so it makes you wonder what role Emily plays. It did also leave me feeling a little impatient though, after all we know what is going to come, we already know what it is all building up to.

The first issue really does a good job of allowing us to grow attached to Katie. It uses a very heavy use of internal monologue although it is stylised into different ways so that rather than just plain old thoughts. It is made to be as if we are reading the her texts or looking at her blog. It gives an insight into her character in a way that is more realistic – we see her internal thoughts in the same way a person from her world would. The only real difference that we as a reader have as we get to see the events in a bit more detail. The fact that the opening scene is also done in the same way as well, with all the text boxes being depicted as the recording of the conversation she had when calling the emergency services. It creates a rather interesting stance on the stories narrative in that it seems to be more like someone is looking into Katie and Rowan’s Ruin. Although only time will tell if that was intentional or if it was just a coincidence of choosing to have the internal monologue done in such a quirky way.

I feel heavily conflicted by the art of Rowan’s Ruin. It seems to be equal parts beautiful and messy. Some of the panels sometimes use a watercolour art style to them, it makes some of the panels look almost like paintings and looks great on landscape. Sometimes, though, it can make a lot of the smaller details seem a little rushed and messy. Especially on characters that are drawn as being in the distance. Characters faces become so void if distinguishing features there is times that the don’t even look like themselves. There is also two pages were they did kind of cheat by having it be close-ups of Katie’s phone with the image inside the phone as if its playing back a video. It is a neat little trick to add more to the fact that a lot of the stuff we are reading is from her blog by showing that she takes lots of videos. At the same time however, it clearly was probably 2 of the easier pages to draw in this issue with its vast empty spaces and also feels a little out-of-place. Despite all this I still say that I love the art of Rowan’s Ruin more than I don’t. It has a beautiful use of colours that really make the English countryside seem more vibrant that is usually is, but maybe it was a good summer that year. There is also a good use of darkness and shadows that really add to the tension.

Rowan’s Ruin is definitely a very interesting comic. It has a great atmosphere and sets up its story nicely. While I find its pacing a little slow, even for a horror build up, it was still interesting. It really helped to make the character more realistic and nuanced and it sets up the whole mystery very well. The art style is pretty unique to and while it does fall short in some places it looks stunning in others making up for it. Even if you aren’t a fan of the horror genre there is still a lot of merit to be found with this comic and I cannot recommend it enough.