Anna Merricks’s best friend, Sylvia, disappeared but Anna is not going to give up searching for her. After having overcome Sylvias mothers hostility, she follows her traces in a mysterious underworld (called The Backways), that appears to be intertwined with the ordinary one. This world is full of strange creatures and magic and Annas life is at stake each step she takes.
You can easily define The Backways as Young Adult Urban Fantasy: Justin Jordan and Eleonora Carlini adopt several typical genre ingredients, mix them and deliver them properly. The outcome is quite a polished story, with a good narrative rhythm, enjoyable at a visual level but (so far) not scaring.
Marked by grim chromatic tones and captivating underworld characters, this comics even offers an elegant reference to Gianni de Luca’s time flow within the panel approach at page 16, when Anna is crossing the border between worlds.
In the end, what is missing from this work is the empathy with the characters, notably with Anna, which results in a lack of an actual sense of fear. Anna is always so self-confident that the reader neither thinks she is in danger nor worries about her. She passes through dark corridors and family troubles with just a grimace, and usually her look of surprise rapidly turns into an even increased resolution. As Coyote Bones – a character from the underworld – notices, Anna really seems to have a one track mind and be always in control of the situation. For sure, youngest readers – The Backways is rated “age 9+” on Comixology – will find Anna a reliable and tough guide through the adversities of her journey. Coyote herself appears to have a more complex profile than the heroine; although initially she plays the villain, then she takes on the role of guide in The Backways.
This first episode ends with Anna standing just behind the entrance door of The Backways. In the next issue we expect the quest to unveil not only Sylvias fate, but, hopefully something about the girls’ personalities and perhaps their special relationships between them and The Backways. And that it may even scare a bit more.
The Backways #1
Justin Jordan, Eleonora Carlini, Silvia Tidei, Marshall Dillon
Aftershock Comics, December 2017
24 pages, colour