Saturday, January 1, 2022

Review: Urbex: Villa Pondora by Dugomier

Ready for the first review of 2022?  

I was going to start the year with a YA Fantasy, which heads into more serious themes, but thanks to my teen son, I've shifted some dates around and am starting with a graphic novel, instead. He claims I need to hit graphic novels on the YA end a bit more often, since these are much adored by this age group (and, he added, that I definitely need more in the middle grade scene along with non-fiction/how-tos because that's what the middle graders head for at the school library first...along with sport books.) I know he's right because I've heard this from several school librarians over the years. So, I listened to his advice!

The cover caught my attention on this one along with the original blurb. Ghosts, urban exploration, and mystery? That sounds like a great mix to me!

Urbex, Tome 1
by Dugomier
Illustrated by Clarke
Europe Comics
YA Paranormal / Graphic Novel

School friends during the day, Alex and Julie meet in secret at night to enjoy a little urban exploration. Deserted villas, forgotten clinics, and derelict factories are their favorite playgrounds. But one night, their exploration becomes a nightmare when they come face to face with the ghosts of two young girls in an abandoned mansion. Alex and Julie are certain about one thing: they can see the dead. But what if they’re also able to heal the wounds of the past…?


Urban exploration, ghosts, and mystery...and that in graphic novel form. If that doesn't scream exciting, I'm not sure what does.

Alex and Julie are an odd pair of friends at school, but in the evening, they like nothing better than to explore all sorts of forgotten buildings and such. When they enter an abandoned villa, they are shocked no other urban explorers have beat them to it. As they look around, they run into a pair of twin ghosts, and while frightening, even more things change to create an unexpected mystery.

The graphics are well done and really bring the atmosphere to life with all of the tension, shadows, and chilling moments. The text flows well and balances these out as it should. There were a lot of strange things happening, and each one was impossible to to figure out where it was leading, which keeps tension high. Mystery weaves in among the paranormal thrills, adding interesting twists, especially since it leads in a totally different direction than might be expected. There's a bit of spook, some action, mystery, psychological hints, and difficult themes of abuse and such. So, this is an intriguing mish-mash on the genre end.

Alex and Julie are interesting characters, and I appreciate that the two are just friends. Romance doesn't come into play, nor does it need to. The adventures and paranormal story lines already put enough on their plates. Plus, Julie has some other issues surrounding her home life. Unfortunately, these aren't really fleshed out in this first book, which is too bad, since, at least, a hint would have been helpful. But it is the first book.

There is a lot going on in this tale, and while it keeps the story moving along (although there were a few moments, that it was a bit on the slow end—which surprised me), it was a bit too much on the theme end. The ghost twins, the super abilities, and the secrets surrounding the villa already create a rich plot. By adding visions, a man with sensitive issues that need to be solved (and this entire line wasn't handled well, imo), Julie's family whatevers, and a psychology angle, which I'm not sure where that's going yet, this grew a bit confusing, at times. 

But all in all, it's intriguing and definitely offers an original twist, which mixes various genres. It will be interesting to pick up Tome 2 and see where all of this is going. But if tome 2 doesn't smooth over some holes, this won't be one I'll continue after that.

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