Review: Effigy #1
“Effigy #1 is a strong first issue managing to pull the readers in just as much with the spot-on characterization as with the murder mystery that might have connections to Chondra’s days as a Star Cop.”
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artists: Marley Zarcome and Ryan Hill
Release Date: Wed, January 28, 2015
For the majority of my life, I lived in a small town in southeast Kentucky, smack-dab in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest. The entire county I lived in has a population of a little over 17,000 citizens, give or take a refugee. While the area itself is gorgeous country, (rolling hills and running trails to escape from the world) the economic opportunities for folks living in the area are few, in large part due to the government owning a big chunk of the land, thus making business growth next to an impossibility. As such, a lot of young’uns make the decision to flee the county as quickly as they can, looking to larger towns and cities for the breaks they couldn’t find in their home towns.
However, many of those looking elsewhere for fortune and glory—or at least a comfortable living—often return to my hometown, the world not treating them as they hoped. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Life happens that way sometimes. It happened with me. I left southeast Kentucky when I was 18 for a small liberal arts school hoping that my academic and professional dreams would become a reality after a few years in college. When reality smacked me in the face like I owed it money (or tuition money, whatever), I made the trek back home to regroup. Again, nothing wrong with that. Life happens.
That’s why DC/Vertigo’s Effigy #1 by writer Tim Seeley and artists Marley Zarcone and Ryan Hill resonated with me to such a degree. The series follows Chondra Jackson, former child star-turned-cop, who returned to her hometown of Effigy Mound, Ohio, as an ill-advised sex tape (leaked by her mother, natch) tanked her career. The one-time star of the kiddie show Star Cops now spends her days being reminded by her peers and the townsfolk that her days of fortune and glory are no more, mocking her for her audacity to leave her roots. Still, Chondra tries to make the best of her life as a law enforcement officer, even if it’s clear her mother misses the limelight. When a murder with echoes of a case on Star Cops crops up in Serpent Mound, however, Chondra’s life is about to be shaken from the doldrums in which she currently finds herself mired.
Just like the murder victim found at Serpent Mound, Seeley crafts a tale that has many layers to be unearthed. The title of the series itself is a nod to how we build up our stars in our celebrity-obsessed culture, only to burn them when it turns out their feet are made of clay, just like the rest of us. While Chondra acts contrite and takes her punches from the abrasive, mocking townspeople, her quiet demeanor seems to only make the derision she receives heighten, as if her attackers are upset that she isn’t fighting back. So many of us want our celebrities to act like trained carnival animals and stay on script, and then we become enraged when it turns out they’re following a different script. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced this sort of blowback on a smaller scale, but the script feels timeless, both on a larger level and a more personal one.
What really sells the story, however, is Seeley’s spot-on characterization of Effigy’s cast. For an initial outing of these characters, everyone from Chondra to her mother to the townsfolk already have a feel of fully-realized people who have a lived-in quality. And Seeley isn’t afraid to show dimension in all of the cast members, whether we are meant to cheer them on or not. While the townspeople derision of Chondra might feel unwarranted, it does come across as a natural human response, tinged with jealousy and a low-level anger. Chondra’s mom might seem ridiculous for still being obsessed with Chondra’s time as a celebrity, but that obsession seems colored by her concern for her daughter and being drawn in to the allure of fame. Even Chondra herself, while the protagonist of the tale and our POV character, has a tendency to put her foot in her mouth, bragging about her time as a star when people who don’t know her as well aren’t around.
The art chores from Zarcone and Hill help to flesh out the tale Seeley has created. The highlight of the art comes from the facial expressions from everyone in the cast. While the duo do a great job at letting readers know exactly what the characters are thinking, I found myself most struck by the quieter looks, especially from Chondra, as a crook of her mouth lets the reader know her barely-contained sadness at her mother’s antics or the townspeople’s barbs.
Effigy #1 is a strong first issue managing to pull the readers in just as much with the spot-on characterization as with the murder mystery that might have connections to Chondra’s days as a Star Cop. Both will have equal bearing on me rushing out to grab the next issue.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our exclusive interview with writer Tim Seeley!