August 28th, 2013 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
It’s always quite interesting talking to people about what sort of horror scares them the most. It’s such a broad genre, encapsulating pretty much any subject and subverting it into something that is designed specifically to shock. A house, a car, a truck, your body, sheep, the creepy pet cemetery up the road, a rubber tyre (yes, look here, it’s a real film, it’s great). For me, it’s the supernatural/demonic possession. If I want to stay awake at night, for a week, then the recent incarnation of The Woman in Black will do the trick, as will the original Japanese Ju-on. I can’t physically bring myself to watch The Exorcist again. I’m working up to a repeat viewing of Event Horizon after 10 years.
Arguably, horror that subverts what’s closer to our reality has the power to disturb more than anything. Something like Se7en is scary because people like John Doe actually exist in the real world and have committed far worse than what we see in the film. This is the premise behind Harvest, a story that deals with the grim subject matter of illegal organ transplantation; cutting out bits from the poor and needy and giving them to the highest bidder. It’s a multi-million dollar black market industry and it’s happening right now, as I type this. Writer A.J Lieberman knows this, wants you to know this and plays on this fact throughout.
Harvest follows Dr Benjamin Dane, a talented surgeon who happens to be a fully blown alcoholic and working his way towards a habitual drug habit. After having his license revoked after his negligence allows a woman to die on his operating table, Dane loses everything. He is approached by the mysterious Jason Craven, a well organised ‘underground’ businessman, one who has made millions in illegal transplantation transactions. Dane is offered a job; removing organs from ‘willing donors’ and transferring them into the rich and powerful who would pay a fortune to have, say, a healthy liver after lavish lifestyle choices leaves their original in a less than desirable state. However, Dane discovers the dark side to this profitable business after an operation doesn’t go according to plan. Walking away from Craven and his associates, Dane vows to bring them to justice, in the only way he knows how: taking back what he’s already transplanted.
Harvest is a solid horror thriller, taking a macabre idea and building a decent narrative around the subject matter. Lieberman has created an interesting lead in Benjamin Dane, a fuck-up of grand proportions; how Greg House might be if he lost all control and all self-respect. Through him we navigate this dark underbelly of the medical profession and meet the other cast of characters, who, unfortunately, seem to fit into the standard archetypical ‘bad guy’ moulds. Craven is the experienced and intelligent Hans Gruber of illegal transplants, his associate Greer, the tough-yet-sexy femme fatale who has a love-hate relationship with Dane. His eventual sidekick is the hard-as-nails Yakuza girl he helps at the beginning, but it’s the creepy six-year old boy, Noah, who really baffles. Introduced in issue 1, he is the son of the woman Dane let’s die on his operating table while under the influence and he comes to ‘haunt’ Dane at convenient moments in the story. Maybe it’s me being thick (probably), but I can’t work out the kid’s significance in all of this and while Lieberman, in the extras at the back, cites the boy’s importance to the story, he just seems like an unnecessary subplot that isn’t satisfactorily wrapped up at the end of the book. And while we’re at the end, the final issue feels a little forced; Lieberman wraps up a lot of loose ends, but leaves us with too many questions and what feels like a strained and unnecessary twist that doesn’t really add anything to what we’ve just experienced.
Not to say that this isn’t an enjoyable book, it is; there are some great moments, notably Dane’s escape from Craven’s ultra-hi-tech surgery, as well as some genuinely creepy bits that highlight the lack of regard these people have for human life. All of this is brought beautifully to life by Colin Lorimer’s sublime artwork. Lorimer elevates this book with his pencil work and notably, his colours. His eye for realism, along with his dark, rich palette, match the grimy nastiness this book trowels into perfectly. Each panel is a work of art in itself, from the opening splash of a soaking wet Chicago street scene to the rain drenched rooftop stand-off, this book is (wet) stunning. It’s worth noting the clever interlocking covers to the series as well, collected here individually and as a cool flip out poster at the back – a nice idea that adds insight into the overall aesthetic of the story. What is annoying about this book, and this could just be the print run, are the number of spelling and grammatical errors that flood this edition. It doesn’t detract from what you’re reading, and I’m not saying I’m perfect, but for a comic book company like Image, you’d expect it to look at little more professional.
Harvest is a nice idea, not perfectly executed, but executed in an enjoyable fashion that plays on the reality of illegal organ transplantation and uses this to create a dark, well-paced thriller. If you don’t buy this book for any other reason than the artwork, you’ll get your money’s worth in droves.
If Harvest does nothing else, it highlights a very real horror – that we are living in a world where there are more people on the transplant list than there are organs available for transplant, thus making our organs a commodity to be bought and sold like any other commodity. As a result, there are people out there who will do anything, anything, to get their hands on that precious, life-saving body part. If that doesn’t scare the shit out of you, God knows what will.