Review: Unfair by Vance Summer & Sandy Jarrell


Written by: Vance Summer
Art by: Sandy Jarrell

Published by: Monkeybrain Comics
Cover Price: $0.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Comixology.

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Summary (contains spoilers): Unfair starts in a small rural house. A man is putting a birthday candle in a cupcake to celebrate his son’s first birthday, when suddenly the boy is yanked out of the high chair by some invisible force (this is the second review I am doing tonight about a boy who got kidnapped…and both from Monkeybrain…).

The father chases after him, even though a scarecrow in a dress warns him not to. The scarecrow is pretty cryptic but tells him that his year is up…

The man encounters other strange creatures with similar warnings telling him that the boy is where he belongs now. The man is determined to get his son back, and continues chasing the boy in his pickup truck.  The truck  is knocked off of the road by a massive paw. The creature attached to said paw says that “He’s Mine! You can’t have him!” The man concedes “He always was.”

The creature is gone to reveal a female ghost who is behind all this. She talks about how unfair it was that she never even got to hold him. The man agrees, and explains what is going on with the scarecrow:

The comic ends with the man standing over the grave of his dead wife.

Review: Before Monkeybrain, I hadn’t really seen this format used before. The graphic short story.  Monkeybrain has only done a few of these, but they have all been pretty great. Busiek’s Thoughts on A Winter Morning, I have probably read a dozen times now. The Stars Below was a story I didn’t expect to like all that much, but it had a brilliant charm to it. Unfair is very much in that same vein. I didn’t quite know what to expect going in, but when I reached the end, I had to admire the simple brilliance Summer and Jarrell created here in just a few short pages.

This story was basically a ghost story at it’s core, but it is a damn good one. I was reminded of some of my favorite Stephen King short stories here. In just a few pages, Vance Summer creates an intense and powerful scenario.  The father’s pain is just about leaping off the page at you on every page.

At first, I did think some of the imagery was a little odd, like the possum and her cubs, and later the clawed beast:

When I was reading the book at first, these surreal creatures made me think of Labyrinth. I kept expecting David Bowie to be at the end singing:

“You remind me of the baby
What baby? The baby with the power
What power? Power of voodoo
Who do? You do
Do what? Remind me of the baby”

But this actually added to the impact of the end of the book. Instead of some ridiculous supernatural force, this ends up being a powerful story about loss. The mother’s loss of her life and child. The man’s loss of his wife. When you realize just what’s going on here, you can’t help but feel like you just smashed face first into a brick wall.  The first time I read this issue I was on the bus home, and I just kind of sat there quiet for a while reflecting on my own wife and children.

Sandy Jarrell’s art and coloring really added to the impact of this book. From the dark clouds hanging over the beginning to the rain on the man and his wife at the end, this entire comic is about building up a mood that weighs pretty heavy on the reader. Unfair is not a story I will be forgetting any time soon.

Monkeybrain really needs to do more of these graphic short stories. They have a huge impact on reader, and Unfair might be the best one they’ve done yet. Definitely a very different type of supernatural story, it is well worth checking out. MY FAVORITE COMIC OF THE WEEK!

Final Score: 9.0: Unfair is the best comic I read this week, hand’s down. Huge emotional impact that comes at the reader from a completely unexpected direction.