Queering SFF

Queering SFF Pride Month: Brainchild by Suzanne Geary

Of course, it’s not all traditional physical books here in the queer-and-speculative world. Exciting stuff is happening digitally, too, particularly in the world of webcomics—like Suzanne Geary’s Brainchild, which began publication at the end of January this year and is ongoing. The comic currently consists of a prologue and the majority of its first chapter, going regular-and-strong the whole time. The updates roll out on Sundays.

As the site informs us, “Brainchild is a story about paranormal phenomena, bad first impressions, wide-scale conspiracies, a whole bunch of mutants, and everything else your senior year of college can possibly throw at you.” This is Geary’s first major project, and so far, I’m hooked—definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely (rarely!) follow serials. I tend to binge-read comics, print and digital alike, once they’re done or nearly done; I have a patience problem, or an attention span problem, or something—a something that means I get frustrated waiting for weekly installments. (For the curious: yes, I do the same thing with television shows. Give me whole seasons or nothing.) But once I saw a write-up of Brainchild over at Autostraddle.com, I had to give it a look: it was handsome, it was queer, it had weird supernatural phenomena and seemed to capture the strange atmosphere of almost-adulthood at the end of college.

Count me in, sign me up, et cetera.

The prologue introduces us to our protagonist, Allison, who is moving in with her friend Carrie in a large old house broken up into apartments. Within minutes of moving in, though, Allison manages to get whacked on the head with a box that falls off a shelf, and we’re treated to an eerie and fascinating hallucinatory sequence in which she encounters her presumably-dead brother, who asks her to “save” him. So, right off the bat, we’ve got the tension between Allison and Carrie, the paranormal phenomena surrounding Allison—her “ghost,” as Carrie jokes—and the mild conflict between the women and their two male housemates, Moez and Derek.

It’s all in the early stages, of course. But so far, I find the dramatic tension Geary is setting up to be remarkably compelling. The blend of the supernatural and the mundane is handled well. The encounter with the “ghost,” as he realizes he too would be Allison’s age, is touching and disturbing at the same time; on a totally different note, Carrie’s panic at seeing her ex-girlfriend at a housewarming party—and running off to hide in the bathroom the rest of the night—is realistic and charming in equal parts. There’s a sense of the supernatural intruding on real life, and yet also a sense that this is part of Allison’s real life. Phenomena, it is implied, seem to follow her.

And speaking of the protagonists, so far they feel well-realized: they’re portraits of people, it seems like, that I’ve known. These are young adults uncomfortably figuring out each other and themselves on the cusp of drastic life changes. Their interactions, particularly in dialogue, feel appropriately uncertain and sometimes perfectly stilted. Geary’s illustrations provide an excellent counterpoint in body language and facial expressions, too, upon which her artistic skill is not wasted. Each panel is expressive and full of color and motion. I particularly enjoy the use of color palates in the comic so far, and backgrounds; both of these seemingly-minor things come together to create some extremely handsome visuals that feel as real on the page as they possibly could.

Plus, it’s nice to see girls like Allison and Carrie illustrated with such loving care—and their relationship, too, as it develops. I feel like the illustrations are giving us hints that there’s perhaps more between them, or could be more, than friendship; the way that they encounter each other’s personal space is noticeable, from the first page onward. Their physical shyness and emotional prickliness, too, are a form of tension. Where the story currently is, well into the first chapter, doesn’t leave me with much to go on yet… Just the knowledge that I’m fairly well hooked, and want to know where things are going in the future.

After all, we haven’t seen any of those aforementioned mutants yet. And I’m dying to know what’s happening with the ghost, and Allison’s headaches and visions—as well as with the housemates, and finally, the eerie spider-faced figure from the first vision. So I wish I could say more, but mostly, I wish there was already more for me to read, and that’s highest praise. Queer college hijinks with ghosts and monsters: seriously, it’s what I want.

Plus, when it comes to checking out new work from up and coming queer writers, digital publications are a great way to do so—particularly in the world of comics. So I was glad to find Brainchild, and despite my quirk about serials, I’m certainly going to keep reading it to find out where it’s going to go next. The art is great, the tale so far is compelling, and the characters are charmingly real; what more could I ask for? I hope it keeps living up to expectations—and that you guys will like it too.

Lee Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. She can be found on Twitter or her website.


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