Step-mothers are something of a thriller cliché. The standard wicked step-mother pattern usually involves a recently bereaved widower finding solace in the arms of another woman. Meanwhile, teenage daughter, who’s probably had the thankless task of being mother to younger siblings and held the family together while Dad falls apart, sees this usurper of her new role as a major-league threat, especially when her younger siblings start calling the step-mother ‘mummy’.

That pretty much sets up the dynamic of Silverfish too. Daughter Mia see’s step-mother Suzanne through the suspicious eyes of a threatened teenager. When Suzanne wrangles her way into a men-only weekend away with the father and his friends (something Mia’s mother never did), they leave Mia in charge of her sister (and Suzanne fan) Stacey. Mia is suspicious of Suzanne’s history though and, finding her address book, decides to phone up some contacts from her past. This turns out to be a bad idea, especially when, in phoning a man from a page that’s been torn out, she dredges up some past that would have been far better left forgotten.

silverfishA taught thriller ensues, as Suzanne struggles to keep her dubious past under wraps using any weapon at her disposal, and Mia is determined to undermine Suzanne’s relationship with her father. The mystery man from the address book helps add something of a twist and the book culminates in a crescendo as Mia and Stacey are stalked through a theme park, fighting for their lives.

Stalker style finales don’t work as well in comics as they do in other media, such as movies. It’s much harder for a comic writer to control the speed of time passing in a comic, because readers are more in control of the flow. In a film you have 25 frames per second, every second, flashing past the audience, making suspense and surprise easier to achieve. People just don’t read comics like that, and something like the finale of Silverfish falls a bit flat in comic form, because the timing and the surprises just aren’t as shocking when you’re turning pages and catching glimpses of the coming action.

With this anti-climatic ending, which admittedly is perhaps more a fault of the medium than the story, and more than a little element of genre cliché about it, this book is ultimately disappointing. You could get cynical about it and argue that David Lapham has created a movie script and used his reputation in comics to get it noticed. We wouldn’t go that far, but it looks like Joel Schumaker has already picked up on it and, as a result, it might be worth waiting for the movie, where we’re sure the style and pacing of the piece will be better suited.

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