Los Angeles-based independent publisher Diablo Comics published The Unwanted, a graphic novel in which a secluded re-education detention center for troubled youth becomes the battleground between an ancient demon and a handful of teenage kids and teachers. Scott “Diablo” Marcano and Mark Michaels co-created and wrote this contemporary tale with artist Juan Romera completing the illustrations and Jason Arthur on lettering.
There are a number of points to recommend this graphic novel to readers who enjoy horror stories. Marcano and Michaels provide brief background details of each teenager and each teacher and interweave them into a fairly linear horror story. These glimpses add depth to the characters, their flaws, and the inner demons they have to fight in order to find cohesion with the other characters if they are to survive the soul-sucking shapeshifter demon.
Marcano and Michaels incorporate a few tenants of the horror genre in their story. For example, horror stories tend to be more tense when limiting the number of characters to just a handful and, typically, all but one will die through the course of the story; however, the writers chose to twist that and allow a higher rate of survival, which does not weaken The Unwanted. Choosing the mise en scene of an isolated detention center serves to emphasize the “we are alone and must depend on each other” feeling amongst the students and the teachers – a situation that has proven successful time and time again. In addition, Marcano and Michaels use an ancient Chinese medallion as a plot device, but they do not overburden or demystify it with a lot of story exposition.
Romera completed the black-and-white layout of this 250+ page graphic novel. With the two-color utilization (There was a minimal use of red to denote bloody moments.), there is an inherent issue: the challenge of endowing the characters with unique visual cues, so the reader does not encounter difficulties differentiating the characters. It was a problem I experienced, particularly between a couple of similar-looking students. Generally, more detail in the facial expressions and textures to fill in the stark backdrops that often occurred would have strengthened the visual telling of the story; however, Romera does create several well-organized pages conveying the sense of action, especially when the demon is in his true form.
Lastly, the lettering was competently completed by Arthur. The gratuitous amount of space in the speech bubbles felt oversized but, if tightened, could have been filled with background textures and details instead. There were also a couple of instances where the stems of the bubbles crossed over each other; although awkward, I could still follow who was saying what to whom.
The Unwanted is a decent horror story which had an interesting premise and clever setting. Although the visuals and lettering had a few issues, overall, it’s a fun read for fans of horror.