Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is a quintessentially English horror story with a powerful concoction of influences: the children’s comic staple of a young teenager, evacuated out of the city for the summer to keep out of trouble; blended with a The Wicker Man-style back story of witchcraft, black magic and human sacrifice. Inevitably, the lead character, 15-year-old tearaway Nicnevin, gets tangled up in the black magic and ends up in considerably more life-threatening situations than she probably would have if she’d stayed in the city.
While the basic plot might sound like it’s on a well-trod path, the angle writer Helen Mullane has approached it from is anything but. Nicnevin is female, mixed-race and takes control of her own destiny (at least as far as those around her will allow). And with the first page showing the naked murdered corpse of an old woman, there’s little about this comic that’s suitable for children.
Dom Reardon’s art is all about the characters, only filling in the background detail to establish a scene and when it’s needed, but more often focusing harder on facial expressions and body language to carry the story along. That sometimes leaves details looking sparse, but it doesn’t matter too much, as this is intrinsically a character piece.
It’s a grim story, tackling some difficult themes and with an ending that didn’t go in the direction I was expecting, but is all the more enjoyable for it. It’s ideal if you fancy a grown-up English horror story, that’s a good modern take on a tale that still feels deeply rooted in English folklore.