Though the art and dialogue are quite likeable, the plotting of “Sleepy Hollow” #1 ultimately left me unsure whether there’s an audience for it. The issue offers no context or exposition for new readers, but it also doesn’t match or exceed what the show itself has to offer. (The exception here is perhaps Noelle Stevenson’s adorable short, “Movie Night.”) As proof of concept for the show as a comic, “Sleepy Hollow” #1 works, but it will need to make smoother, smarter use of its source material to be a success.
The versatility of Jorge Coelho’s angular style is quite a benefit to the book. The characters’ slightly exaggerated anatomy feels light and whacky in the comic scenes, but it easily shifts to grotesque for the supernatural scenes. Abbie and Ichabod are both all forehead, which makes their signature expressions more open and identifiable. Admittedly, Coelho goes too heavy on the inks in certain places, giving a few of the scenes some strange lighting, but overall his work is vibrant and likeable.
Colorist Tamra Bonvillain creates a few awesome effects — the lightning strike, the green eyes — but she can’t seem to decide what she wants the book to look like. Her approach is consistent, but not necessarily cohesive. A few tweaks and less drastic shifts in color scheme could have it looking great, but it isn’t quite there yet.
Marguerite Bennett’s script is a delight on the micro level. Her dialogue is funny and very in line with the show, from Abbie’s wry indulgence to Ichabod’s alternating outrage and enthusiasm about modernity. She clearly knows the characters’ voices.
Unfortunately, the narrative is weak on a macro level. Bennett’s script is strangely jumpy; even the first three scenes neither transition nor build on one another. She doesn’t leave any hint that the “miracle” of the first scene is connected to the “miracle” in the third until much later. Instead of feeling like the mystery was growing, I felt like the issue was meandering.
By the time the problem does become clear, the solutions to it are convenient and pre-packaged. “Sleepy Hollow” is a procedural at heart, and so its central drama is the process of investigating. However, Abbie and Ichabod barely do any investigating at all in this issue. They don’t struggle for answers or look for clues. Instead, the answers come to them wholesale and immediately. (Despite this, I grinned at Ichabod’s Ben-Franklin-inspired coup de grÃ¢ce.)
In the end, this is possibly a question of approach. With only four issues, Bennett can’t write a season-long mystery like those on the show. She seems to instead be going for the mini mysteries approach, but she’ll need to speed up her structure for that to work. I’ll bet that the two-issue mystery in issues #3-4 will end up my favorite, as the creative team will have more room to tell a story.
Noelle Stevenson’s two-page “Movie Night” at the end was probably my favorite part of the issue. Quick, funny and making excellent use of its source material, it reads like the very best sort of fanfiction.
All told, “Sleepy Hollow” #1 was enjoyable but too easy. Going forward, I’d like to see Bennett make better use of the source material and the format. She’s stretched her powerful imagination on other titles, and I’d love to see her run wild with the “Sleepy Hollow” mythology.