Based on a short story by Neil Gaiman and adapted by Todd Klein, The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch presents a dreamlike mystery as three friends reminisce about a bizarre trip to a circus in a forgotten labyrinth under England where the fourth, a Miss Finch (not her name), went missing under strange circumstances. But it’s not the how that’s the mystery, it’s the why. What makes her different and what does she lose or gain?
I have not read the story upon which this is graphic novel is based, so perhaps there’s more to it, but there’s very little in the way of story to Miss Finch. There is an event and an almost magical shif, which seems to leave the remaining three characters fairly unaffected. The focus is more on creating an abstract tone, a bit of a playground for Gaiman and now artist Michael Zulli to play in. If there is real magic at play, then why do so many of the circus people seem so completely daft? It feels like a cheeky joke that Gaiman is telling. Through this, he creates a clever atmosphere in which the impossible seems even more so.
In some ways, it reminded me of The Masque of the Red Death with a bit of the fantastical by filmmaker George Méliès thrown in. Zulli’s art is chalky and sketchy but incredibly expressive. Real life is brought to the images of the circus which our narrator blows off as something from a comic.
The real interesting thing here is that as boring and odd as our three friends find Miss Finch, she’s the most interesting of them. She’s the one who seems to have something to lose or gain. She’s the only one with a wish. The others walk above it all, casting a light judgment or a snarky remark towards anything even slightly different. They are from the Bunuel book of creations, embracing their own entitlement, neither happy nor sad. In fact, the further I get into this review, the more I embrace the book. Frederico Fellini is another filmmaker that comes to mind as I stare at the images of the circus freaks, as I page through and find that the magical elements grow more intoxicating, more abstract.
There are so many things in this life that lack real magic, but if we let that close our eyes to magic, we may miss it when it’s right in front of us. I suppose you can replace magic with any other word.
I’m drawn to this book in a strange way, and it may be growing on me by the second. Maybe it will grow on you, too.