Remember last year when we couldn’t sleep for a week because of that comic? Well, Joseph Oliveira, Adrian Manuel Garcia and Dominic Racho are back with the penultimate issue, so dig out your night light and let's settle in as we edge closer to the finale. Oh, and will someone check I locked the door?
That’s right sleep might be a rare commodity at the moment so why not use that twilight time to give yourself a psychological jump-start with some expertly crafted horror. For a more in-depth description of the art and story outline please see the previous review for issue one and two. In this review, I'd like to explore more the themes and ideas brought forward by this menacing issue. This penultimate issue ties up the early narrative arc while setting up a very intense, quite supernatural final chapter. There are themes here which are, I feel, quite relevant to these times, in a roundabout way. Although this comic has been available since May I hope the timing of this review reflects the feelings of these strange times. Or at the very least keeps fans new and old prepped for issue four.
So ignoring that disease of the body and to keep us sane(ish) during the fight against that disease of the mind, let’s have another start, with the art. Well, Adrian Manuel Garcia is a superbly accomplished artist. So it comes as no surprise that issue three of Stay Awakes art remains persistently dread-inducing. Darkness stalks these panels, consuming some. Yet Adrians art cuts through this beautifully while also embodying it. Across this issue Adrian builds the darkness, figuratively and literally, it’s well-weighted horror. A great testament to this art I feel is its final page. The mentioned darkness that grips the majority of the issue is lifted on this page. Yet despite this being possibly the “brightest” of those pages it still holds so much dread. To put it simply the scary bits are frightening, and the more serene the more uncomfortable the feeling. This issues cover is provided by Dominic Racho who does a bang-up job of setting that familiar tone of which we have come accustomed.
With the art powering on, the story needs to keep driving and Joseph Oliveira continues to deliver in this awesome series. The “interview” which dominates the story continues with D.I Lane pressing Doctor Banks further on his previous cases. This case is the last she wishes to consider. It is a case the doctor recalls easily due to its nature. Oliveira uses issue three to shift a few gears in this story. In particular, the supernatural shift found in issue two is expanded on greatly. It’s the bigger themes which I interpreted in this issue that, as I mentioned before I intend to focus on. As the story really speaks for itself so expertly, and I fear to try to describe anymore would lead to spoilers. However, these themes are quite interesting. The first thing I picked (possibly) upon is a question of the power of belief. With this lens, I feel, there is an exploration of how a lack of belief can cause larger consequences centering around doubt and inaction. A very poignant theme for these times. A time where unwavering belief. Constant action and the removal of doubt is paramount to change. I’m most likely implanting this in the current climate I'm sure but I believe it’s an important message. I would also assume that really this is tied more to the mental health aspect, which of course is more central to this series. Ignorance is not bliss. It also feels like the mental health outline is built with real understanding narratively, while artistically we are treated (perhaps) to a physical embodiment of mental health illness.
The Stay Awake series is full of food for thought. While its face value horror/thriller/mystery story is super entertaining. Its exploration of mental health feels measured, with great depth. It’s underlying themes of belief I feel are strong, and an apt message for the climate. Wherever I'm accurate or not the series is fantastic. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see its final chapter. To get your copy head to www.afterlightcomics.com where you can catch up on the whole series. Don’t forget to keep an eye on Kickstarter for what should be a dramatic closure to Stay Awake, and a return to sleep-filled nights.