Comic Review: “Do You See What I See?” (Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things that lurk behind the corner.
Today we’re going to take a look at Do You See What I See?,* which, despite the title Christmas carol-inspired title, is not a Christmas book in the slightest.
If it isn’t obvious, it’s definitely more of a Halloween book – as it takes place at Halloween time (and we are posting a review of it during our Festival of Dread event).
Do You See What I See? takes place on the campus of a modern American university, and follows the whimsical adventures of a group of pre-med students as they are violently killed one-by-one in classic slasher horror fashion. It’s a stressful environment to be sure, but not just because of all the murder. Tensions are boiling between the school’s politically left-wing and right-wing students, who are incessantly egging each other on, both rhetorically and sometimes violently.
There are a lot of references to recent US social and political discourse, including campus protests over Halloween costumes, a speech by a Milo Yiannopoulos stand-in, and a faculty-sponsored Antifa cell operating clandestinely at the school. It’s not “escapist entertainment” in any sense of the term. I imagine that some readers might find the book cathartic (seeing the avatars of their ideological enemies being slaughtered, and all), but others might not be so welcoming to a book that is so fundamentally charged with modern politics. In any case, I found Do You See What I See? to be fairly even-handed with its depiction of each side. Despite your own personal political leanings, you will probably find something or someone contemptable among both crowds.
The fever pitch atmosphere isn’t just a backdrop, though, it really is integral to the overall cautionary tale being told through the string of murders, and it mostly pays off. Once unmasked at the end, the villain’s behavior changes radically from being a quiet, stolid menace, to being a zany, unhinged lunatic.
There were a few other moments that didn’t fit cleanly with the rest of the narrative. For instance, the first murder, which actually occurs a year before the bulk of the main story, doesn’t quite match the motivations of those that followed. Another death later in the book is done in such a way that it is obviously meant to be a “gotcha” moment. I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers here, but it’s another moment that is out of place, so it telegraphs a revelation later in the book.
On the artwork side, everything in Do You See What I See? is serviceable from a storytelling perspective, but much of the artwork lacks finer details and the colors often come off as a bit flat. This approach can keep everything and everyone distinct for readability’s sake, though I still had a slight bit of difficulty differentiating the characters of Jakob and Donny from time to time. In any case, there aren’t really many moments in the book that stood out from an artistic standpoint. I am a little bit loath to admit that the actual murder scenes were the most interesting due to the more creative angles and the splashes of blood breaking up what would otherwise be flat, plain images.
I honestly did not expect to enjoy Do You See What I See? It’s not that I thought that the book looked to be poor in quality, but I typically don’t gravitate towards slasher stories unless there is some kind of supernatural element at work. As soon as I realized how much the book was pulling its inspiration from modern politics, I became even more skeptical.
I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the end. Not every piece fits in perfectly, but the political unrest is completely integral to the story, the motivations of the villain(s?) make sense, and there are some nice splashes of humor throughout to break the tension. I wouldn’t say that I particularly liked most of the protagonists – or victims, for lack of a better word – but that seems to be a common convention of the slasher genre, as I see it.
You can pick up a copy of Do You See What I See? from the campaign’s Indiegogo in-demand store here.
*Disclosure: A digital version of Do You See What I See? was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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