By Tim Seeley, Stephen Molnar, Quinton Winter, and Carlos M. Mangual
Balancing between the familiar and the unknown is key to a monthly series, especially one that deals with interdimensional parasites. You want to give just enough to for readers to keep going, while at the same time letting on that there’s more than meets the eye. Imaginary Fiends is able to keep up this act as it goes into its third issue. The series continues to develop the dynamics between characters and shows once again that its world might have many more stories to tell.
In Imaginary Fiends, Melba Li and Agent Crockett are investigating the disappearance of a young boy that’s linked to a creature similar to Melba’s not so imaginary friend, Polly Peachpit. While some actual detective work is done and the mystery does become clearer, that’s not at all the most effective part of the story. Instead, the best parts deal with illuminating the nature of its characters. The cooperation between Melba and Polly are again done quite well, at times playfully mean but also relatively affectionate. The origins of Polly’s former sweetheart, Charlie Chokecherry, comes with a fair amount of sympathy for those that can relate to being thrown away, an appropriate development for something masquerading as the idea of a child. It’s all done while still maintaining the idea that these beings are incredibly dangerous, building towards the book’s final moments.
Writer Tim Seeley does all this character work but still manages to add some deeper layers to the world. The full scope of powers that a certain parasite has is fortunately left in the shadows, hinted at in various ways but not explicitly demonstrated. It helps in keeping some of the tension regarding these monsters in place. But even Imaginary Fiends‘s grounded characters have some wonder. Agent Crockett plays against the stereotype of a by the book official, incorporating some tactics that seem questionable and giving him added inner complexity. This development in turn leads to depictions of time functioning outside of pure cause and effect, adding to an already strange plot.
Artist Stephen Molnar is given more freedom and strays a little from the realistic setting in this issue. He starts out with some abstract imagery, visually trying to get across an otherworldly feeling for Polly and Charlie. This almost seamlessly transitions to a much more concrete style but still deals with designs that have an absurd quality to them. The use of an exuberant purple pumpkin and a feather boa-wearing teddy bear helps offset the rest of the book’s more serious elements. Quinton Winter’s colors brings both of these sides of the series to great effect, especially with Agent Crockett, blending the two when needed. The series’s focus on fear and horror still plays a good part also, as shown in the issue’s climactic reveal on its last page.
Imaginary Fiends continues to be a good example of how character can drive a book as much as its set pieces. The emotional states of its protagonists play a part in the story, but it doesn’t feel as if they’re just used as a simple plot device. Instead, they make you wish that the next chapter in Melba and Polly’s story arrived a little bit sooner.