Review: The Bone Orchard: The Passageway

Jeff Lemire (w), Andrea Sorrentino (a), David Stewart (c), Steve Wands (L), Greg Lockard (ed)

Pub Date: June 15, 2022

Image Comics Logo

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Publisher’s summary:

From the acclaimed creative team behind GIDEON FALLS and PRIMORDIAL comes the first book in a bold and ambitious new shared horror universe! When a geologist is sent to a remote lighthouse to investigate strange phenomena, he finds a seemingly endless pit in the rocks. What lurks within—and how will he escape its pull?

THE PASSAGEWAY is the first book in the new BONE ORCHARD MYTHOS from LEMIRE & SORRENTINO! This universe will feature self-contained graphic novels and limited series about the horrors lurking within the Bone Orchard, just waiting to be discovered. 
bone orchard cover

Review:

I hate it when I’ve reached the end of a story and my gut response is, “What the fuck did I just read?” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened with THE BONE ORCHARD: THE PASSAGEWAY published through Image Comics.

There are bits of a story about a ghoul like woman named Sal living on an island in a lighthouse. A researcher named John comes to investigate a sinkhole that Sal claims suddenly appeared one day. What readers learn about John is that he’s traumatized by water because his mother died by drowning. Readers don’t get the details of where or what circumstances led to her death. Instead, there are bits of memories that John has like a small toy boat he was playing with when his mother died. He believes her epilepsy was the cause.

That’s all potential for a phenomenal story! An aquaphobic scientist has to go to a tiny unnamed island with a lighthouse in order to solve the sinkhole’s mystery. That whole entire premise of a story is not used to any satisfaction.

bone orchard interior page

Slight Spoiler
Sal the ghoul (that’s never explained either) shoves John into the sinkhole. He lands surrounded by blood, crows, and a giant skeleton statue. He swims out having visions of his drowned mother.

Inside the sinkhole, the art takes on the role of carrying all the weight of the story. It’s gorgeous, but there’s just no cohesion. We get magnificent non-panels of images like a thousand crows taking flight in silhouette. There’s an enormous statue of a draped skeleton reminiscent of Santa Muerte, but again, no explanation at all.

Slight Spoiler But Doesn't Ruin It
Sal and her brother Doug (no idea if he’s also a ghoul or if he brought Sal there because she is) throw themselves into the sinkhole.
Spoiler to Discuss the WTF Ending
With John fatality injured by Sal, he drops himself off a cliff into the sea seeing his mother again under the water.

That’s it. The volume just ends.

bone orchard interior page

This reaction is no fault of the mystifying darkness of Sorrentino’s artwork which is deep, dark, and detailed in a way that will compel any reader to flip back through solely for the images. Stewart (of course already renowned) used a color palette that was limited to one main color per page/spread. There were secondary colors such as skin-tone, sometimes used, but not always.

bone orchard doublepage spread
NOTE: the grey vertical bar is a product of Snip-It to copy the spread as two pages. -Amber

 

Why did Sal mention the broken light in the lighthouse? What role do the crows play? Who’s eyes are the crows eating? Does Sal only eat crows? Is that skeleton a god, a saint, or what? There’s only part of a story here which is a shame. The book is labeled as part of “the Bone Orchard Mythos” and the publisher’s summary states it’s a new universe that will have self-contained stories. I know comic fans go absolutely crazy for Jeff Lemire’s stories and his name is nigh untouchable, but I wasn’t a big fan of Underwater Welder either. It was just ok. His subject matter is interesting, but the story progress and development lacks.

Rating: If I were only judging the art, it would be 5 stars, but because of the unsatisfying story, 3 stars.
3 stars

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