Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, The Facts in the Case of
the Departure of Miss Finch
(Dark Horse, 2008)

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is the most recent of Neil Gaiman's short stories to receive a hardback graphic novel treatment (Creatures of the Night is another such adaptation GMR has reviewed), with art by Gaiman's fellow Sandman collaborator Michael Zulli.

Originally published in the American version of Fragile Things, the text for Miss Finch has been pared down and slightly rearranged to better fit the flow of panels across the page. This reworking loses none of the original's dry humour, mystery and otherwordly atmosphere. The back cover states Miss Finch is "a mostly true story," a claim bolstered by the narrator's careful insistence that "Miss Finch" is not the woman in question's name.

The tale features an author (who may or may not be patterned on Gaiman himself), a husband and wife pair who are his friends and the titular Miss Finch, an acquaintance of the pair who proves to be -- putting it kindly -- less than socially graceful. Obligated (for reasons that are never explained) to entertain Miss Finch, the married couple invite the author along to make the evening less awkward. Their original plans include sushi and the theatre. Only the show gets canceled, and the group seeks diversion in a most unusual circus, "The Theatre of Night's Dreaming," which is located beneath London (shades of Neverwhere) and demands that its patrons enter of their own free will (shades of Dante).

Definitely not your typical circus, this one sports an Alice Cooper look-alike, possible vampires, a knife-throwing Cardinal, a audience-participation guillotine and, in the penultimate room, the "Cabinet of Wishes Fulfil'd." It's in this room that Miss Finch is chosen from the crowd to participate, presumably to get a wish fulfilled. What follows, in the final room, is unexpected and powerful, leaving readers and the other characters alike to wonder what exactly has occurred. Illusion? Magic? Reality? Or a little of all three? The answer is open-ended and for the individual to decide.

As always, Zulli's remarkable and distinctive art meshes perfectly with Gaiman's prose, his lush watercolors providing just the right level of detail -- or mystery -- to both mundane London and the otherworldly underground circus.

Here's hoping that Gaiman and Zulli continue this series of collaborations as so far each has been a welcome interpretation of Gaiman's work.

[April Gutierrez]

Neil's Web site is here, and Dark Horse here.