Today we’re going to be looking at Alisik, a rather Tim Burton-esque comic by Hubertus Rufledt and Helge Vogt about a young girl. A young dead girl. A young dead amnesiac girl trapped in a cemetery with an array of curious characters.
Waking up inside her coffin to find that she has been sentenced to an interderminate amount of time in the purgatory of the graveyard by the all-powerful “Mr Grim” who decides if souls go to Heaven or Hell, Alisik must try to fit into this new existence, learning the rules that govern it and trying to get on with her new companions, other “post mortals” who are also waiting to hear if they are destined for the good end or bad. Into this new life comes a blind boy called Ruben who can, somehow, hear the dead even though they are invisible and undetectable by the living… or so everyone thought.
There is also a subplot that the old cemetery the characters call home is going to be dug up and turned into a shopping mall and during chapters there are interludes showing what is going on in the world outside of the cemetery walls.
Our cast of secondary characters are introduced to us through a lavish musical number where we get all their names and some details of their demise.
Frings, a skeleton, decapitated in a circus accident. Hot Head (with hair permanently on fire), who died in the cemetery’s church. The General, who died during combat and never needs to worry about stomach problems ever again. Pointy Hat who never speaks a word to anyone. Ottie, the den-mother to the group who takes Alisik under her wing.
It’s likely that the creators of Alisik are, by now, tired of hearing their work compared to that of Tim Burton but these grotesque, intriguing characters conjure up immediate comparisons to Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas and Frankenweenie. The art style is reminiscent of Roman Dirge’s “Lenore”, though far more intricate and detailed. There’s also what could be a sly tip of the hat to Beetlejuice‘s “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” with snippets from “The Book of 3 Times 77 Rules of the Dead” interspersed between chapters of the comic. It seems that regardless of the reality you inhabit, bureaucracy is inescapable.
This particular trade paperback is comprised of the first two issues of the story and it sets up a number of arcs. How did Alisik die, why is her presence in the cemetery unexpected, will she and the others go to Heaven or Hell, why is it that Ruben can hear the dead, along with a number of other plot threads that we won’t go into here for fear of treading in spoiler territory.
Themes of isolation run strong throughout the story, with Alisik struggling to find her place in this new unlife, a teenager without a memory trapped with people who have been alive/undead for centuries and have little in common with her adding to her own isolation from the people who inhabit the living world. Ruben’s blindness also isolates him from a family that doesn’t quite understand him, leaving him to spend much of his time alone with his pet dog.
Unlike many other comics with their clearly defined heroes and villains, Alisik inhabits of world filled with shades of grey, not only due to her somewhat incorporeal nature but because so much is left open to the reader’s interpretation. Even her own companions raise questions about their pasts and their temperaments. A potential pyromaniac, maybe a war criminal, a vain girl who caused the deaths of others? Even Mr Grim is an ambiguous figure, meting out justice according to the wicked and the good in equal measure. It could be argued that among this cast of ghouls, the only true monster is the CEO who wants to sweep a graveyard aside to build a Mall.
He obviously never read Pet Sematary or watched Poltergeist, building on graveyards and ancient Indian Burial Grounds never ends well.
Alisik is now available from Titan Comics.