Book review: Misty featuring Moonchild and The Four Faces of Eve

Book review: Misty featuring Moonchild and The Four Faces of Eve

To mark the anniversary of the cover date of the launch of Britain’s greatest ever horror comic, I asked Sarah Heron to review the recently-released collected edition of two Misty classics: Moonchild (which debuted in the first issue on 4 February and 29 April 1978) and The Four Faces of Eve (which ran between 17 June and 2 September 1978).

This is a beautifully-packaged edition – still available from the Rebellion shop Neither Sarah nor I read Misty at the time it was published, and we both loved it, so I’d recommend it to anyone with a love of comics or classic British horror.

Over to Sarah …

Wow, this takes me back.  Saturday morning, get your pocket money and go buy this week's comic.

I was a couple of years too young to get the glory years of girls’ comics.  By the early 80s we were deep into reprints, but I adored Sandie and Tracy and whatever new name they would come up with next.  A few years later, and I was scouring 2000AD for the girl friendly strips - Strontium Dog yes; Flesh, oh my god no.

Misty I only knew from an older cousin’s stash of old comics, so I'm looking forward to reading one of the greats.

The cover is wonderful.  I'm pretty sure I wanted to be exactly this girl when I grew up.  The mysterious eyes; long hair; hanging around in a gorgeous painted Scooby Doo background.  She's even a brunette (I hated all those blonde fairy tale princesses).

Moonchild (script Pat Mills; art John Armstrong)
Uh oh it's a blonde.

Ooh part orphan with an abusive mother.  There's the girl comics I knew and loved!

Her mother appears to be Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.  That would have flown straight past me as a kid.  The bully has the short hair of evil.  Anytime you see that haircut in a girl’s comic it’s a warning sign.

Our heroine looks awfully familiar.  Can't quite place her though.

Nice detailed instructions on the prank.  Perfect for copying.  Did they still sell non-safety matches in 1978?  I reckon the editor made him put in the ‘we shouldn't play with matches line’.

It's all gone a bit Dark Phoenix.  I love the lines.  ‘I am a half-wit’ 500 times.  You just don't get that commitment to psychological abuse any more.

A curse scar!  Do you think JK Rowling read Misty?

I think Pat Mills may have been a teenage girl at some point.  That's a pitch perfect evil plan.

Yay!  I'm loving this.  Telekinesis was always my superpower of choice, mainly so I could ferry cups of tea to myself without getting out of bed, but revenge on bullies is good too.

Just realised where I know Rosemary from.  It's Mia Farrow!

Now I feel a groan coming on.  Pat Mills, you should be ashamed of yourself!

I suppose it does add to the Demon Child vibe, but I hope not too many of the readers would have gotten the reference.

Gym in your pants.  No wonder PE teachers are loathed.  Why did they think a uniform of gym skirt and pants for gymnastics made more sense than shorts? Does this still happen?  It was certainly happening as late as the 90s.

Nice nightmare.  I love that Rosemary is more upset by being laughed at than burning alive.

Picked first at gym.  Is there any clearer indication of where you rank socially?

Ouch.  And there's the other reason to hate PE.  I'm liking the characterisation of the bullies here.  Norma positively revels in her power.

And the doctor has flipped straight to mad scientist.  Nice.  There's a line in a Luke Cage episode when Claire Temple desperately messes with a complex experiment and Dr Bernstein says "You are about to do something completely stupid.  I wouldn't be a good scientist if I let you do it alone” and weighs in.  That rings very true to me.  I think the mind-numbing routine of lab work brings out the megalomaniac in people.

Not sure if Pat Mills is setting up a sequel here, or if he just can't resist a Dr Frankenstein subplot.

Mysterious strangers and a random Dalek.  I love that Dawn sexes up her outfit the minute she's home.  Doesn't matter that there's no one to see her, she just wants to de-school.

Norma Sykes?  Is she Bill Sykes descendant?  I wonder if she'll turn up in the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Now that's a back-story.  Hmmm, and no body for the granny.  I think I may have a sneaking suspicion who the stranger is.

I may be investing too much here. This party's going the way of Carrie's prom, and I've only been able to watch that once.

Nothing says teenager like hanging out at the local bomb site.

Epic climax.  Rosemary's looking particularly Mia Farrow today. 

Some lovely hark backs to Carrie.  I think John Armstrong is having a lot of fun.  Norma's gang is looking positively demonic.

Given that Rosemary wasn't actually using her powers the whole time, did she subconsciously want Norma to burn?  I'm sensing a mental block.  Next time there's a lunar eclipse on the Spring Equinox she'll be back to business.

Well that was fun.  I'm a little gutted that there's no sequel.  I wanted more of the school doctor and his battles for research funding.  Also, the mother’s disappearance was a little off-hand, even for the time.

Even one panel, of Joan Crawford on the overnight to Glasgow, would have been nice.

It's always a joy to read something the lives up to expectations.  My only criticisms are a slightly rushed epilogue and Rosemary being de-powered.

Still, as a teenager, I wanted desperately to fit in, while being noticed as being exceptional.  So a muddled message is probably appropriate!

Right, on to story two.  I'm hoping for a plucky orphan this time.  I was disappointed that Rosemary had a parent; surely all the heroes I remember had run away by the end of part one?  I don't recall Sandra of the Secret Ballet asking permission for a birthday party.

The Four Faces of Eve (script Malcolm Shaw; art Brian Delaney)

Nice title.  Schizophrenia?  Past lives? 

As a kid I would have been thinking about The Four Marys from Bunty.  And hoping I'd be able to tell them apart.

Is there anything more satisfying than ‘Starts Today’ in the corner of a story?  I always felt a loyalty to those that I never had to stories when I joined two or three parts in.  I followed Secret Ballet through three different comics because I'd been there at the start.

Part One
Page 1 and we've had a jet crash and a hospital.  You don't get storytelling this tight now.  Ridiculously pleased at the brown hair on our heroine.  Mind you, the plane blows my past lives theory out of the water.

Spy cams in the ward?  I'm not sure that's NHS standard.  I think I know where that school doctor from Moonchild went to work.  I'm interested that we seem to be going for such a modern tone.  I think the covers led me to think Misty would be more ghost stories, but this is like reading Dracula.  All modern technology and recording devices.

Her dad is one of the surgeons?  I'm thinking implanted memories or full body transplant.  Are we going full Dr Frankenstein?  Fake parents too?

Yes!  We have a plucky orphan.  I love the sense of "no one will miss you" that's building up.

I wonder if we'll see curly blonde girl again?

Why is there a bat in the next part box?  Is this house they're moving to a crumbling mediaeval mansion?

Part Two
Aw house, no.

I suppose Tudor Cottages work too.  Nice house, I appreciate it when the artist puts a bit of effort into the architecture.  Our characters must be awfully short. Any cottage I've been in posed a constant danger of head injuries from beams.

Nice writing here, our heroine's internalising the abusive treatment.  I'm not sure what to do with the cat posters.  Of all the memories to retain, it seems an odd one.  Will she be recognised by a pet later on?

Mrs Frankenstein is driving a convertible?  Full body transplants must pay well.  I'm sure they were in a station wagon last night.

Nice ending.  Reminds me of spending an afternoon digging through my mother’s dressing table trying to prove that I was secretly adopted.  Preferably from a minor European Princess who'd gone into hiding after her evil brother stole her crown.  After all, you can't be a heroine without a tragic back-story.

Part Three
Did we know the Frankensteins surname before this?

That is a fiercely frilly dress.  It looks like something Maggie Thatcher wore when she was shilling for the Tory Leadership.  ‘Strident, who's strident?  Can't be me, I'm wearing Laura Ashley.’

I distrust the frills.

Hmm, Dr Frank is drinking again.  The stress of hiding his illegal kidnapping and experiments?

Just realised evil mum has Princess Diana hair.  This is a very early Sloane sighting.

I'm getting a little weary of the panel showing blonde Eve2 falling midair.  It does show the repetitive nature of the dream, but it feels a little lazy.  That said, every other drawing is fresh and gives us a little more info each time, so I think the repetition must be a deliberate choice.

Most incompetent burglar ever.  Why would you leave the easily sold blank birth certificate?

Ooh nice.  Another dead girl.

I feel confident in predicting that Eve3 will have a distinctive haircut.

Part Four
I like the sassy cop. I'd read that story. 

Dr Frank is wearing a tie at home.  I'm not comfortable with that level of formality before I've had my first cup of tea.  Clearly a sign of his Mad Scientist status.

He's not the world’s best forger.  I bet he didn't disguise his handwriting when he faked sick notes at school.

Excellent, the sassy blonde from the hospital is back, and she's from a circus! Although it ruins my theory that Eve was locked up in Porton Down.

If I was a showman, I'm not sure I would tailgate the police.  That way lies permit inspections.

Eve has evil hands!  Anyone else hoping they remember how to pick locks?

Eve3 has short hair with Farrah flicks.  I'm feeling pretty smug on the hair prediction front.  Also, once again the girl with short brown hair is evil.

Anyone else remember the evil clones called Eve in The X-Files?  Chris Carter would have loved this.

Part Five
More angles on the plane crash.  Nice.  I appreciate the drip of extra information.  I like the way Brian Delaney is putting Eve1 into Eve2’s memory.

Evil cat.  How could you sleep with that looking at you?

And we are off to the circus in the most contrived plot twist since Goldfinger invited Bond to plan a heist.  Where's Richard Maibaum when you need him?

Evil clown sighting.

And that might be a coincidence too far.  Why is Eve4's granny at the circus?

I'm going to need a solid reason why the Frankensteins moved Eve to the area her head came from.

You know, I've typed out three versions of the previous sentence and none of them are any clearer.

Part Six
I'd forgotten there was a time when clowns in comics were a good thing.  Tim Curry scarred an entire generation when he made IT.

Mrs Frankenstein is giving away a bit too much info here.  Hmmm Eve's head wanted to go on stage.  Is that the first thing you would say to a girl who looked just like your dead granddaughter?  I feel a looming plot point.  Is our heroine going to end up in the circus?

Well that didn't take long.  This part is rattling along.

Part Seven
It makes a pleasant change to see an adult hesitating before inviting a complete stranger to stay.

That estate is the most 70s car I've ever seen.  What happened to the convertible?

Cool, a phrenologist!  That's a first.  I guess you need to diversify to keep the punters happy.  Madame Moroni has a gift.  Or noticed the surgery scars.  Either way, she knows something's up. 

This part's a bit slow, but after the last two I think it's earned a breather.

Part Eight
The cat thing's going to be important in the finale isn't it?

For a minute I thought the private detective was wearing a dressing gown. Seemed like an odd sartorial choice, but it all adds character.  I was a bit disappointed to realise it was a trench coat.

Part Nine
Who is Gerry?  Is he the guy Dr Frank was talking to in part one?  Dr Frank has serial killer gloves.  Why am I not surprised?  Wearing them at the circus is an odd choice.  Maybe they're his driving gloves.  Driving that estate must be hard on the hands.

The artist is doing wonderful work here.  It's only when you compare these to American comics that you appreciate the design in these.  The circus audience is full of distinctive characters.  You know exactly when this is set, you can often tell the age and class of people in the background.  A Marvel or DC comic of this era would be full of generic sexy types indistinguishable except by hair colour.

Gerry IS the guy from part one.  And he's depersonalising our heroine, because if Eve is a 'she' how can he justify his behaviour?

Our subtext just became text.  Hi, Frankenstein’s Monster! <waves>

No 'next week' bat this time.  Are we getting near the end?

Part Ten
Eve's doing a Smokey Robinson number.  No reason.  Eve's watching a bit of Boris Karloff in the cinema.  Someone likes their Universal monster movies.

Gerry is filling the evil scientist role better than Dr Frank. Maybe he was Dr Igor all along.  It would explain the station wagon.  No self respecting mad scientist should drive an estate.  I bet the convertible belonged to Gerry.

The next part bat is back.  Next part: ‘Torment’.  There's a title for you.

If I had missed the next week I would still be raging.  I still haven't gotten over missing the last episode of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds.

Part Eleven
Igor's drinking again.  Mrs. Igor is getting cold feet.  The private detective is entertainingly venal.  Is he going to flog the pics to the tabloids or try a little light blackmail?

That flew past.

Part Twelve
Bet they're glad they were in the station wagon.  They would have died instantly in the convertible.

The car crash has smashed the doctors' hands.  Excellent.  A just and proportionate revenge. Unless the surgeons travel to Tibet and gain mastery of the mystical arts.

And Eve runs away and joins the circus.

In my head, Eve is living happily ever after as a lion tamer.

Is it just me or is twelve parts slightly too short?  I feel as though I'm missing a part.  A page explaining the midnight flit from the hospital.  I'd have liked an explanation of why Dr Igor settled near where Eve3 and Eve4’s family lived.  Not to mention a reason for Eve’s busking.  Was it coming from the brain or the body that wanted to be on the stage?

Hmm, fanfic time.

The Tudor house belonged to Gerry.  He lived there and saw the deaths of Eve3 and Eve4 in the local paper.  He worked miles away in Barton General, the large regional hospital, as the County Coroner.  When the plane crashed he saw the opportunity and got the dead girls bodies sent to the big hospital for autopsy.

OK I feel better now.

I might re-read with this back-story, see if my retcon works.

Well, I enjoyed that.  It wasn't quite as satisfying as Moonchild.  I feel the serialisation of the story was showing, a few too many plot threads left hanging.  I feel that I spent more time worrying about the structure than enjoying the atmosphere.  It’s often the problem when you marathon something designed to be consumed weekly.  Still, the narrative pulled me along, the art was gorgeous and I thoroughly enjoyed.
Story File: The Body Snatchers

Story File: The Body Snatchers

On this day, 4 February 1978: Misty

On this day, 4 February 1978: Misty