Writer and artist: P.Linnaeus
Publisher: Independently published
In the year 1933, an unsuspecting young woman begins her journey from grieving widow to demon slayer in the graphic novel ‘The Demonhuntress’. Created by Paulus Linnaeus, The Demonhuntress is a universe that follows Alexis Strauss in a world that blurs the lines between the supernatural and reality. It’s in this main universe where we were introduced to Faustina Strauss, Alexis’s predecessor and great ancestor who takes center stage in this prequel (sort of) spin-off. 1888, The Year of the Ripper is intended to be a companion story to the main universe and it provides for an interesting origin story that tackles one of the most talked about periods in human history.
Compared to it’s predecessor where the story was largely set in a fantasy universe that was created by the author, this prequel is largely influenced by real life events…well, kind-off. If you haven’t already guessed from the title, Faustina must face off against one of the most notorious serial killers of all time; Jack the Ripper. Set in 1888, Faustina Strauss is a young medical student in London who begins to investigate the gruesome deaths of young women in the area.
First things first; While The Year of the Ripper certainly compliments the Demonhuntress graphic novel series, it works quite well on it’s own also. Of course if you read the previous installment then you will know who Faustina is, but as she was only briefly featured, it allows for this story to go where it wants and give characterization and a backstory to a character who is meant to be closely entwined with the heroine of the main universe. It also gives flexibility to Paulus’ story-telling and allows him to open up this universe a bit more.
The premise alone is an interesting one. Pretty much everyone is intrigued by the Jack the Ripper case, so much so that it’s a plot that has been used in multiple graphic novels and other mediums. Almost to the point that it has been over-done. Without giving to much away, I really liked the way that Paulus has gone with this story, choosing to go with the supernatural theories to link them to his own creation. As a short story, I also felt like the story progressed at a nice pace. There were instances were I felt like the story was a little rushed, but as this was a short story it didn’t really hinder the story and it’s still an easy to follow read.
One thing I am really enjoying about the Demonhuntress universe so far, is the focus on strong, independent, women characters. While Alexis finds her own strength during her journey, Faustina seems quite head-strong and willful from the get-go. In a world where she is seen as inferior to men for both being a woman and in education, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and it never feels like the characterization is forced. Not only is she a physically skilled fighter, which we get to see in quite a few well done action sequences, but she is also seen to be incredibly intelligent, as she manages to figure out the motive behind the killings and doesn’t hesitate to go after those responsible. At this point, the comparisons to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is going to be swimming around in some people’s heads, and while it would be a fair comparison, the concept of this story is enough for Faustina and the Demonhuntress story to stand on its own.
Another thing that really stood out to me while I was reading was how many mature themes are present. Aside from the mentions of gore and violence, there are also some political themes that play out, such as gender politics and class differences that provide a little bit more depth to the story. There are hints that women students are separated from the men as a way to ‘discourage’ their education, Faustina is subject to misogynistic comments from her fellow male students, and the violence against the victims is seen as a ‘misfortune’ of the lower classes. These themes are never so glaring that they feel like they are preaching to the reader, but giving the content, it does ground the story a little bit more in reality than it’s predecessor.
The artwork once again follows Paulus’ signature style found in The Demonhuntress. As I have mentioned previously, Paulus’ art style has a whimsical quality to it. Unlike the standard graphic novel style of block images and panels, his style favors the delicate pencil shadings and water color palette which may seem like an unusual choice for a graphic novel, but it certainly works for the stories gothic/fantasy setting. Unlike the previous outing that was completely black and white, this story is fully colored. For me, I think this adds a bit more depth to the art and brings the characters to life just that bit more, as we get to see the expressions on the characters faces a bit more and we can also see the shapes of lingering shadows that is appropriate for the tone of this story. I personally liked the decision to add color to this story but that is just a personal preference.
All in all, 1888: The Year of the Ripper is another decent entry for the Demonhuntress series and a unique re-telling on one of Britain’s most talked about crimes. Keeping up with the focus on a strong kick-ass women heroine while also giving a bit more story to one of the series pivotal characters it’s a story that will appeal to fans of the series’ and new readers alike.
You can read more about the Demonhuntress Universe and keep up with the latest installments over at the website.