“Dem Fish is Swimmin’” A Review of David Lapham’s SILVERFISH
David Lapham is not new to crime comics. For the past twelve years, while not exactly prolific, the majority of his output has dealt with murder, drugs, robbery or some combination of the three. Throughout forty issues of the phenomenal STRAY BULLETS, he told a series of interwoven crime stories that took place in a non-linear fashion that kept readers puzzled and entertained at the same time. After a stint writing DETECTIVE COMICS and the SPECTRE, Lapham has now released SILVERFISH, a new original graphic novel published by Vertigo that is one of the darkest bits of crime fiction I’ve read in a while.
SILVERFISH begins with a mysterious murder, but the focus of the book is on two sisters, Mia and Stacy, who’ve managed to have the house to themselves while their father and stepmother are out of town. A few of Mia’s friends arrive shortly after the parents have left and the group’s boredom and curiosity lead them to a buried secret. From this point, all of the seemingly disparate elements of the novel fall into place and the story builds to a noir-ish crescendo that echoes the amazing finale of The Lady From Shanghai. The story takes place in Seaside Heights, NJ in the winter of 1988. Lapham manages to create a sense of claustrophobia in what is essentially a desolate wasteland. When you’re trapped in a house in a deserted boardwalk town, even if you can escape there is nowhere to run. And that’s pretty scary.
Actually, the whole thing is pretty scary. When I say the book is dark, I mean it literally as well as figuratively. The whole thing takes place at night, and Lapham’s cinematic use of shadows in his artwork gives every scene a feeling of impending danger. I was drawn in to SILVERFISH, and I think any fan of crime fiction or good comics will be as well.