So, for the second time in my 3-year tenure as an internet comic book reviewer, I am writing a review at the request of the comic’s creator. This time around, I’m taking a look at something called The Well Dressed Man, a tie-in to a book from the same author, Alex Giannini, called Sarah Faire and the House at the End of the World that details the origin of the story’s villain. I considered reading the book first in order to write a more informed review, but ultimately I thought it best to go into this blind and review the material on it’s own as it is presented. So, without further introduction, let’s dive right in.
The first thing one will notice about this, aside from the striking artwork, is that this comic is formatted less like a typical comic book and more like a children’s book or at least something in that style.
The story’s narrator, the only character with any dialogue in the story, begins by saying that this is the story of the Well-Dressed-Man, but proceeds to tease the reader by saying that it might not be, and that we’ll just have to find out. Before he’s even revealed to us, already we get a sense of the mysterious nature of our title character. Well done.
Back in the days when the world was still new, the Well Dressed Man ran a tavern in the middle of the woods for weary travelers. He would often sit in the corner by the fire, playing an instrument that sounded “unlike anything your ears have ever heard.” The Well Dressed Man had a particular love for children. His wife had passed away before they were given the chance to have children of their own, so he was always happy to entertain the children who came into his humble home.
Over time, the Well Dressed Man’s tavern became renowned throughout the world, though many wondered how a frail old man was able to run the place all by himself. The simple answer: magic. Behind his unassuming and frail exterior, the Well Dressed Man was a very powerful wizard. However, despite having the power to move mountains and tame dragons, the man was content to simply be an innkeeper. Briefly, the story takes a moment to discuss other wizards in the world, particularly, a certain type of wizard known as a Shadow Speaker, named so for their tendency to practice a dark and terrible magic and their ability to literally speak to shadows.
One autumn night, as The Well Dressed man went about his usual business of running the tavern, a powerful wind blew and carried some embers from a nearby fire to the tavern, causing it to burn to the ground and the comic ends on a vague and eerie note that indicates that these events changed the Well Dressed Man in ways too horrifying to truly understand.
This comic was a joy to read. There were stunning visuals, excellently written narration and great detail for the story of the Well Dressed Man. The whole story reads like a ghost story told around the campfire. It’s not scary per se, but it uses just the right amount of macabre in it’s storytelling that it still gives the reader chills.
I think that the burning of the man’s tavern was not elaborated upon nearly enough. As I said before, I have not read Sarah Faire (though after reading this, I now intend to), so perhaps there is more revealed within that story, but since the indication is that the fire was the incident that apparently darkened the Well Dressed Man’s soul, it would have been nice to see it discussed further. Also, the Shadow Speakers could also have been further fleshed out, but again, that’s probably a detail that’s discussed further in Sarah Faire.
Ultimately, I think this comic accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It gives us the backstory of this mysterious character and does so with great style, stunning artwork and witty use of language. I am now greatly looking forward to my reading of Sarah Faire. Perhaps you can expect another review in the future.