The Way We Write by Rachael Smith centers on the actual band Her Name is Calla from England. Unfamiliar with the music, I researched the band and found the music to be dense, atmospheric, and quite enjoyable. This is a tactic I love when someone crosses over fiction into the real world, though it doesn’t always work well (I am looking at you Bad Twin from the Lost universe, gross.) Rachael Smith makes the book work perhaps cause she is not a member of the band, but the resident cartoonist if they have such a thing. The lyrics revolve around bad breaks up and missed opportunities. So, basically the opposite of the comic which is funny, light hearted, and a little violent (but only if you consider ghostacide a violent thing – not me, you had your chance in life, just kidding…not really)
Getting indie work to review can be such a double edged sword. Especially anything revolving around music and involving some light hearted fighting can seem hacky in this post-Scott Pilgrim world of comics. Not that it’s about fighting. It’s a comic more about comedy and mystery than anything else. The art itself is more cartoon than realistic, but it’s not detrimental. The art is quite fitting for the overall book. There are some nice little touches like the real life black and white pictures that hang on the walls(perhaps an homage to John Layman’s comedy/adventure book Chew which does the same to hysterical effect.)
The lettering was uninspiring at first. It looked hand drawn via a computer, like someone did it on a tablet or photoshop. Then as the comic continued you realize the lettering is quite nuanced. There is a punk rock DIY feel to it all that adds rather than subtracts from it all. After finishing the book you know it would be completely antithetical to this book if the lettering was done the typical way. This lettering needed this feel and breadth which helps with the comedic tone.
The story revolves around 3/5 of the real band Her Name Is Call coming to an old place called the Owsy House which appears to be haunted. As the band arrives for a weekend of writing, mostly they are creeped out, but decide go out drinking first where they learn something is amiss with the Owsy House. Two young women offer their house to stay at, which the band mistakes as the sign of groupies (they are not, to great comedic effect.)
The band returns to find that they are losing a bit of their groove. They attempt to practice, but the sound they make appears to be hardly musical. Intersperesed is some sort of green ectoplasm following them around adding to the overall mystery of the issue.
Giving up practice to write, the group has even further troubles making up new songs. The song titles are hardly inspired intentionally showing the group is losing something here. The green ectoplasm still trailing with musical notes nearby.
In a little Community-esque meta humor, Sophie complains the lyrics and titles all sound as if written by a cartoonist and not a musician. Helping to further explain the divide between the comedic story and Her Name is Calla’s actual music which is dense and atmospheric.
After an hour and a half of trying, they finally give up. Adam can’t even remember the name of his instrument. Something in the house is stealing from them, their talent, ability, and knowledge. This is a comic more reminiscent of Scooby Doo cartoons than Scott Pilgrim, which is definitely a plus.
After hunting down the source of the theft, Sophie dishes out some punishment that is light-hearted and well played. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s definitely something I haven’t seen in a comic book before. Even the source of the theft isn’t that reliable a narrator, so it’s a question mark instead of a period. I’ll say this, I am going to steer clear of any choirboys, that is for sure.
The comic is a fun ride that is over far quicker than I would have liked. There are no damsels in distress or pointless violence. It’s a refreshing read from a cartoonist trying to product a smart book rather than a quick buck. I highly recommend The Way We Write.