‘Sleepy Hollow’ #1 Is As Bonkers As Its Source Material (And That’s A Good Thing) [Review]
Sleepy Hollow is my favorite show on television, and has been since that scene in the first episode where the Headless Horseman showed up and tried to kill Ichabod Crane by blowing him away with a machine gun in each hand. It was, and remains, the single most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and while I initially worried about whether the show would be able to keep that energy up as the story rolled on, well, there was an episode last week with the premise of Benjamin Franklin building a Frankenstein's Monster out of the most powerful soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War, so, y'know, they've pretty much maintained a constant level of being absolutely bananas.
So needless to say, I was pretty excited when Boom Studios announced that they were going to be releasing a comic tie-in by Marguerite Bennett, Jorge Coelho, Tamra Bonvillain and Jim Campbell, because if nothing else, Sleepy Hollow's particular brand of horror-themed kookiness is exactly the sort of thing that would lend itself well to comics. Having read the first issue, out this week, I can confirm that the team did their absolute best to make the comic as weird as the show, and while it's not a perfect translation, it's definitely a good one.
I have to imagine that creating a comic based on Sleepy Hollow provided a pretty big challenge for Bennett and Coelho in terms of how they approached the relationship between the main characters that, aside from the increasingly weird plots to engineer the Apocalypse, forms the core of what I really like about the show.
Sleepy Hollow's greatest strength has always been that Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie have an incredible charisma and chemistry that goes a long way towards selling the truly ludicrous things that their characters have to deal with every week. Bringing the story into comics means divorcing the characters from their actors, and even though fans of the show know what Abbie and Ichabod are supposed to sound like, if that relationship doesn't come through, it ends up throwing the whole thing off.
Fortunately, the relationship between the characters is the high point of the comic. Even though they only have 20 pages to work with, Bennett and Coelho go out of their way to put the spotlight on their interaction, with more than a few familiar scenes thrown in that are focused on Ichabod being mystified and annoyed by the modern world and Abbie's deadpan reactions to her surprisingly tall 18th century partner.
As you might expect, the comic brings that conflict up in the form of Ichabod's deep and abiding distrust of Wikipedia.
You know, you'd think that such a stalwart proponent of democracy would be more into opening up the halls of academia to everyone, but I suppose as a chosen witness charged with preventing Armageddon, he probably doesn't have a whole lot of need for the world's most comprehensive list of anime plots and pro wrestling holds.
The lion's share of the characterization comes from Coelho, who does a great job with the acting, punctuating the banter with some solid physical comedy, and the best part is that he goes for exaggerated, caricatured representations of the characters rather than trying for strict, photorealistic likenesses. I'm particularly fond of the way he draws Ichabod; all rectangles and forehead.
As for the plot of the comic, that's where things start to get a little shaky. The best part by far is that Bennett and Coelho are clearly willing to do stuff that would be hard to pull off on a TV budget, like flipping trucks and having grotesquely distorted monsters show up and start shooting weird energies out of their hands, which is stuff that I really like. It's also nice to see that since they're an offshoot of the show, they don't have to stick so tightly to the ongoing plot that's playing out on TV, meaning that they can open things up a little, chasing down weird plot threads or, in the case of this issue, providing a small, bizarre sequel to the world of the show.
The problem, at least in this case, is how fast everything feels. One of the things that Sleepy Hollow's TV incarnation does that I really appreciate is that they tend to take a lot of time with things. This is a show that'll go ten or fifteen minutes on the cold open before actually getting around to telling you what you're watching, which cracks me up every time. Even though they tend to load up every episode with a new ridiculous idea every few minutes -- like this week, when Ichabod found a human bone laying in the dirt in the woods carved into a flute and decided to just put his mouth directly on that thing before explaining that the Pied Piper was definitely a real dude who fought in the Revolution -- it gives things a little time to breathe.
Here, things move fast. I'm not the kind of person who complains about compressed stories and I'm more than happy that they decided to open with a done-in-one adventure about possession via ground-up witch bones, but it changes the pacing, and I think you lose something in the translation. And in this case, it creates a plot hole that ended up pulling me right out of the story.
I mentioned the possessions earlier, and one of the pieces of the plot that allows Ichabod and Abbie to figure out that there's something witchity going on is that Ichabod recognizes the old "maiden, mother, crone" pattern:
The problem is that at that point in the story, there have been only two people possessed. I had to go back a couple of times just to make sure that I wasn't missing one, but nope, it's just Maiden and Crone; mom remains nowhere to be seen. As a result, having Ichabod leap to that particular conclusion feels really awkward, even for a universe where sentences like "by the way, George Washington once sent me on a secret mission where I learned werewolves are real" would be perfectly logical.
I'm not sure if I just missed something, or if this is an attempt to tie it into the episode of the show that it's referencing -- which aired over a year ago, leaving me a little hazy on the details -- but it seems like there was one more piece of that puzzle that might've been left out for space, and it's not the only part that feels like that. As good as Coelho is with the likenesses and the comedy, there are action scenes in here that feel really choppy, and don't quite read as smoothly as they should.
Aside from those rough edges, though, it's still a highly enjoyable comic that does a lot of stuff that I really like -- and as an added bonus, there's a two-page backup written and drawn by Lumberjanes' Noelle Stevenson that is 100% delightful about what Ichabod and Abbie do on their downtime. If they can tighten things up and keep up the fun of the plot, which actually is every bit as creative and weird as the show that it's inspired by, they'll have a great comic on their hands.