The opening pages to Scott Larson’s Visitations: The Great Balloon Disaster make it abundantly clear that the mixture of history and supernatural fun in the first issue were no accident. He skillfully blends historic figures and events like suffragette Elizabeth Booth and the annual Fourth of July balloon races into a tale that provides insight into Clayton Blackwood’s lovely young companion, Miss Nellie McCullough (and her very special equine friend, Kincaid).
Nellie just wanted to spend the beautiful Fourth of July watching the balloon races and enjoying the companionship of her neighbors; however, a mysterious and powerful opponent to Clayton Blackwood has plans to obtain a talisman of power during the event, and the young woman gets sucked into a destiny beyond her wildest dreams. Is it because she appears to be sensitive to other worldly forces? Is she just unlucky enough to be chosen? You’ll have to read the entire volume to find out!
Rather than focusing solely on Clayton Blackwood’s story, Larson takes the opportunity to develop the backstory of one of the illusionist’s helpers from Issue #1. Nellie clearly had some type of ability due to her relationship with Kincaid, the skeletal horse, but there is definitely more to her than just being able to see non-human beings. I also loved the brief panel that explained why Kincaid existed in an undead state. (Great touch to remember that some readers want to know about the critters!) Again, Issue #2 can be read as a standalone, but there are threads of a plot arc being spun around the powerful Bajardo. Over the various issues, I suspect things will tie together, but it’s still a fun read without knowledge of the first issue.
Larson does some interesting things with how he sets up the panels in this issue, and I’ve been told on good authority that the print edition will be designed to help the reader experience the action more thoroughly. My personal favorite bit was a nicely dressed woman at the balloon race trying to restrain her exuberant canine from jumping on a man in a nice suit.
This issue has a soundtrack that accompanies the action, but I genuinely forgot to turn it on while I read the graphic novel. I checked it out after the fact, and each piece adds something to the words and pictures on the page.
Based on issue #2 and the advertised focus of issue #3, Visitations is going to take time to more fully introduce Blackwood’s supernatural aids and companions as well as move the storyline forward. It’s a nice way to delve into each character and focus on slightly different aspects of Chicago history. The fiction and history blends seamlessly, and the sixty pages flew by. If you love Old Chicago, tales of the supernatural butting up against the human world, or just engaging historical fiction, Visitations is well worth the price of admission.
4.5 Secret Suffragette Societies out of 5