Kim W. Andersson’s Alena is an interesting book. Originally published in Sweden, it comes to the States via Dark Horse and brings with it a very gothic horror feel. From the beginning you know something horrible is going to happen, if it hasn’t already, to Alena. Feeling like an outcast at her high end boarding school due to being the poorest person there, she’s also dealing with an increasingly vicious bully and struggling to cope with a personal tragedy. All isn’t lost though as she makes a choice to move forward, circumstances be damned, and actually live her life.
Unfortunately the circumstances have something to say about that.
Reading this novel made me think of Rebecca at various points as the story shifts narrators throughout and every POV gives you a different take on what, exactly, is happening. None of them are completely right, as everyone has a very different version of what’s going on, but combined the overall picture builds to the truth and the truth is terrifying.
Which brings me to the artwork. At first I was a bit put off by it, all the characters are seemingly a little too exaggerated, especially the aforementioned bully. However, as the story went on the look and feel of each character actually enhanced what I learned and made me go back and re-read the previous chapters. Andersson’s style reminds me of Crumb in some ways and it’s rawness, and ugliness at times, make the story feel real in a way traditional comic art probably wouldn’t.
If you’re looking for some dark horror that explores the human psyche look no further than Alena.
4 out of 5 love letters.