Stone Cold

YOLEN, Jane & . illus. by Orion Zangara. 80p. (Stone Man Mysteries: Bk. 1). Lerner/Graphic Universe. Oct. 2016. pap. $59.99. ISBN 9781467741965.
Gr 5–8—Craig McGowan, a runaway looking for sanctuary in 1930s Edinburgh, is recruited to be part of an investigative network by Silex, a massive, semianimate gargoyle rooted to the roof of the cathedral. Silex needs helpers on the ground to solve a string of murders that may be connected to his own hidden past and larger infernal machinations. The characters are, except for Silex, almost universally dark-haired and round-faced, with their eyes downcast from the omnipresent rainfall. We are hurriedly introduced to a bevy of players, and their lack of distinct characteristics makes it difficult to distinguish among them, as do overhead sequences that are drawn to remind readers of Silex's elevated surveillance but foreshorten participants into dark blobs. Faces are frequently crammed into frames alongside dark shadows and overlapping expository dialogue balloons. And while the city is regularly given scope to emphasize the setting and to remind us of the latticed stonework that echoes the masonic central figure, even those scenes feel overstuffed with busy detail. The visuals establish atmosphere with aplomb but also make for a claustrophobic reading experience, to the detriment of the narrative. The reveal of what will inevitably be the larger ongoing mystery of the series is compelling but perhaps an insufficient counter to the haphazard action on display here and the jumbled assemblage of ciphers.
VERDICT Readers drawn to the gothic art and atmosphere may enjoy the seeds of larger story line, but most will be confounded by clunky storytelling that undercuts the series's larger aspirations.

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