Long Lost is the first venture into comics for creators Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle, and it’s a promising one. Their collaboration results in a comic that’s got especially strong characters and sense of genre. Following the main characters of Long Lost is a treat; the familial mystery and ensuing drama is just a bonus. The increasingly strange circumstances call for familiar horror movie shots and imagery, and that all comes together for a great comic. Long Lost celebrates horror and superstition.
Francis and Piper, the book’s main characters are sisters forced back together to unravel the mystery of their mother. All the way through the end of the book, the two push off of each other. That friction is one of the Long Lost’s best aspects. They’re working through problems of their past and ripping up the good and bad of their past, which means they frequently bounce from loving to frustration and back again. From the beginning, both girls stand out as having rivalling personalities, they have a really relatable sibling dynamic because of that. Piper and Francis genuinely feel like a pair of siblings. Unfortunately, the plot itself stumbles toward the end. Just when it seems like Francis and Piper are approaching some sort of key to understanding what’s going on, Long Lost shuts abruptly.
Artistically, the girls are standouts, thanks to Long Lost’s expressive figures. Artist, Lisa Sterle, considers the girls’ personalities when she’s drawing them and meshes with Erman’s dialogue. Whether Francis and Piper are picking on each other, or making up, Sterle consistently turns up the emotional connection—especially for readers with siblings of their own. Stylistically, Sterle’s art is a nice combination of manga and western comic styles. Her thicker lines bring the characters to the foreground in every scene.
As the story progresses past the first few issues and the girls walk deeper and deeper into the unknown and the ominous, Sterle changes the background rendering. When conditions are (relatively) normal, Long Lost has nicely detailed interiors that establish a place. That’s taken away as the plot goes on, though. Sterle adds lots of foggy elements that grey out much of the book’s detail; it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the girls are. The sense of space disappears. Conceptually, it works, but there are a few panels that end up feeling flat because of how dark they go.
Few things are as satisfying in comics as characters that are well thought out and depicted, and that’s exactly what Sterle and Erman have in their comic. Frankly, it doesn’t matter much what the two of them are doing; Francis and Piper are an absolute blast to be around. Erman and Sterle turn the sisters’ relationship into a mysterious genre comic readers will love. From publisher, Scout Comics, Long Lost’s first volume collects issues 1 through 6 and is available at Scout’s online store, and at Midtown Comics.