In the main storyline from David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Rex Ogle, and Garry Brown’s The Conjuring: The Lover, Jessica is still having a hard time adjusting to college life. The other students think she’s weird, her crush is miles away, and she’s suffering from terrifying hallucinations. In the backup tale by Che Grayson and Juan Ferreyra, a wedding dress may spell certain doom for a happy bride-to-be.
These ever-present feelings of isolation and confusion are cleverly visualized by the hands that continue to get closer to Jessica. Her moments of self-doubt are given even more weight in these sequences, which are imbued with a sense of dread by Garry Brown. In many of these scenes, Jessica is placed in the foreground and the supernatural elements are in the back, growing stronger and more present in each successive panel. Everyone feels like their social standing and romantic aspirations are a matter of life and death when they’re a teenager. In Jessica’s case, they actually might be.
Jessica continues to be an interesting character to follow. A lot of people can relate to the process of trying to find yourself in college, of attempting to navigate what the world wants you to be and who you feel like you really are. It certainly doesn’t help that Jessica is clearly in love with her best friend back home and is feeling the pressure of another classmate’s affections, as well as the fear of coming out and being honest with herself. This character is constantly at war with herself and is clearly unraveling more and more, and there are moments where it’s a bit difficult to ascertain how much of this distress is in her head and how much is the result of demonic intervention.
Of course, the first issue of The Lover had the advantage of coming out prior to the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, and so that issue had a lot more wiggle room than this one. Knowing how Jessica’s story turns out removes a bit of that ambiguity. Even so, the strong dialogue and artwork go a long way toward selling Jessica’s internal struggles. Even if you don’t know what’s going to happen, there’s a sense of inevitability in this storyline that makes the whole story feel even darker and more distressing, and Jessica’s confused and pained expressions will really make you feel for her.
The backup story didn’t work quite as well for me, and I feel like this is one case where the plot and characters would have benefited from a larger page count. As it stands, it feels like a whole lot happens off-page here, while a number of important beats are relegated to a single panel. It’s hard to get a feel for any of the characters or their plight, and it’s ultimately unclear what the villain’s motivation or true nature is. However, it works as an interesting mood piece at the very least, with Ferreyra’s artwork feeling reminiscent a classic Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow segment.
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