The first impression you get of The Vicar Woman is that it might have something of Father Ted about it, as a ferry with a new vicar on board pulls into harbour on a strange island. All thoughts of comedy soon disappear though, as the creepy locals slowly reveal their hand, demonstrating why they suddenly need to lavish thousands of pounds and hours of their time to seek forgiveness from God.
The plot is actually quite simple. In the island’s recent history, something deeply unpleasant has happened, and its inhabitants feel a certain amount of guilt about it. Artist Emma Rendel essentially draws the revelation of this situation out over the length of the graphic novel length by leaving the vicar to gently tease the reality of the situation out of her new congregation, over post-mass tea and conversations by the vicarage fence. This gentle interrogation is infuriating at times, leaving the reader chomping at the bit to find some resolution or meaning to the story.
The art is unusual and highly stylised. The characters’ arms tend to come and go, for example, and the islanders are a strange-looking bunch of creatures, some of whom have animal heads, or parts of animals in place of their facial features. It’s a bit scrappy looking at times and, while the overall design is good, we found the book lacking in detail.
The climax is only partially fulfilling, which is something of a shame, as with more loose ends tied up, or at least a little more explanation, the book could have offered more. It’s an interesting, quirky curio, but its eerily dark plot was just a bit too slow-moving for my taste.