A Sickness in the Family
Written by Denise Mina
Illustrated by Antonio Fuso
Lettered by Clem Robins
Published by DC/Vertigo
Vertigo’s crime line has, by and large, left me cold. So it’s a welcome surprise to find that Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso’s A Sickness in the Family achieves a twisted and creepy level of satisfaction. Mina wisely forgoes the predictably washed-up, pseudo-alcoholic private dick protagonist that burdens many of the Vertigo crime titles, introducing readers instead to the Usher family (Yes, Edgar Poe readers have reason to do a double take). Mom and Dad, Gramma, and three young adult children, all living together under one roof – where family tensions have them at each others’ throats.
Mina spends enough time on the entire cast to let readers connect to them and understand them. Excepting Amy, always angry and blaming, and perhaps Gramma, whose on the tableau is limited early, each Usher is given room to show their shallow side and their reasons for being disgusted with their kin. Yet Mina also takes time to present a softer, more human side of each person, rounding them out into something close to fully realized persons.
The dialogue between the cast feels mostly authentic, if sometimes stilted, and time is taken to explore the interactions between each of the family members. The character work and exploration of everyone’s own sins sets up all the conflicted dynamics effectively. Truly, A Sickness in the Family’s only major shortcoming, depending on your mileage regarding the dialogue, is the ending, which is predicable a hundred pages away and borderline absurd on a few levels.
The art, by Antonio Fuso, carries the story forward smoothly. Fuso chooses how to frame each shot carefully, ensuring that each sequences reads clearly and dialogue flows easily across the page. The distinct character designs enable readers to easily keep track of a fairly large cast, and detailed backgrounds establish each scene firmly. Fuso also provides strong character acting.
A Sickness in the Family stands out as one of Vertigo Crime’s best offerings, a tale of sadness and confusion, rage and disappointment. Denise Mina creates a fully realized family dynamic, and Antonio Fuso handles the art with professional aplomb. Readers looking for a gripping and dark thriller could certainly do a lot worse; A Sickness in the Family uncovers the deepest angers of the family dynamic.