As titles go, Mind the Gap is a corker. If writer/creator Jim McCann's vision had found purchase as a television show, it would be easy to imagine the voice-over guy announce in the most commanding and stentorian of tones, 'coming up next, Mind the Gap ...' McCann and the art team of Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback deliver on this ominous title by crafting a cinematic and well-paced whodunit complete with a preternatural twist that further deepens what might otherwise be boilerplate mystery. Pause. McCann's passion for this project is so palpable and his enthusiasms so unbridled that he includes an essay, Filling In the Gap, at the end of issue. McCann charges the reader to play detective, decipher clues and hunt for Easter eggs. In other words, mine Mind the Gap. On subsequent readings, one does discover details easily missed the first time through, however, closer review also turns up, at best, anachronisms and at worst a lack of editorial control that borders on laziness. It's a shame because Mind the Gap is a strong debut that stands on its own.
Mysteries trade in misdirection, but the narrative noise that opens this first issue regarding custom ringtones (however clever) sounds hollow and disposable. McCann seems smarter than to have his tale turn on a Lionel Ritchie ballad. Like Laura Palmer (Twin Peaks) before her, Mind the Gap's Elle Peterssen is full of secrets, the least of which is (perhaps) what happened to her and why. The attack on Elle occurs off-stage and even though it precipitates the action, McCann leaves the impression that Peterssen is more than a mere victim. It's not long before the rest of the players assemble alongside Elle's hospital bed; each F.O.E. (friend of Elle's) is suspect, from Elle's chagrined boyfriend to her 'bestie' and from Elle's bratty brother to her helicopter father and remote mother, it's a supporting cast that promises murky motives, buried secrets and (ahem) gaps needing to be filled in.
The bedside hospital scene -- so de rigueur in today's TV landscape -- gets very sterile very quick when it comes to sequential art which is why McGann et al. leads readers to 'the Garden,' a pseudo-spirit world, a gap between the living and the not-quite-so-willing-to-commit. It's in these scenes, ironically, when Mind the Gap fires on all its synapses and the story feels most alive. Set against a glossy black background, Oback's colors allow the clean and graceful lines of Esquejo's figures to shine. Within the void of 'The Garden' Esquejo's pencils possess an intimate and soulful quality. The most striking visual is when Elle's spirit guide, Bobby, appears to her for the first time. He lights a match and then a cigarette, his face forms from smoke, an image both fantastic and fantasmic.
Peterssen's 'second life' allows McCann to introduce fanciful elements that maintain a balance between the imagined and the unreal. In less confident hands it's easy to picture how this aspect of the story could trip into the surreal or the silly. The final page hints at a possible reality, but it feels a touch forced, a blatant red herring that neither McCann nor Peterssen (nor the reader) can expect will receive too much traction going further. Oh, that McCann could have stopped there … alas.
In 'Filling in the Gap' McCann writes, ''I can tell you this – the attacker has been named in these 46 pages. Now to start looking for hidden clues as to WHO it is! Keep your eyes open for more Easter eggs throughout the series.'' Not counting Elle and Bobby, there are ten other characters named in this story. So, as the series tag line makes clear: ''Everyone is a suspect. No one is innocent!'' On repeated readings I did find a few fun details like the bishop bookend on Harold Crenshaw's desk (is he a powerful player or just another piece on the board?). I noticed Eddie Peterssen Jr.’s two identical (save for color) cellphones and I found myself comparing styles of hoodies, which are like eyeballs in this series because everyone seems to have (at least) two. McCann makes a point to call attention to the various clocks within the first six pages. ''Clues,'' he says, ''given to help set up a timeline.'' Thanks to McCann's clockwatching, all that was left to do was to assign the crime a date. On the second page Jo calls Dane and asks him if Elle is with him. He tells her ''no'' and assumes Elle is ''probably inside, like any sane person would be on a wet-ass President's Day.'' Problem solved, except no. Later, Jo says ''it's Tuesday.'' and then she repeats herself and says that Tuesday's are when she and Elle don't have to work at the theater. In the United States President's Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in February. According to the timeline set up in the story and confirmed by McCann, Elle was attacked prior to 4:42 PM when she tried to call Jo. So, did Jo simply lose track of the days? Twice? Or, is this an honest mistake by McCann and the editors at Image? Or, is it a clue? Call me a quibbler, but when the author asks the reader to ''have your sleuthing hat on,'' a sleuthing one should go. Here's hoping that any forthcoming details about the life and the after-life of Elle Peterssen don't leave this mystery suspect.
5/16 12:34 From Twitter: Jim McCann good try, but you missed two time stamps, one on pg 9 (Monday) and one at the end, 22 hrs later (Tuesday). :-)
So close. McCann!!! Mind the Gap is riven with references to acting, playing and the theatre. It will be interesting to see how McCann builds on these ideas throughout the run of the series.