Bonding, a new graphic novel from Vault comics, mixes two or three comic genres together in an unlikely way. Part horror, part rom-com, and part sci-fi, Bonding is an unusual read, to be sure.

Writer Matthew Erman brings us along on a first date between Marcus and Laura. It’s during the awkward small talk at the restaurant that we learn that these two young adults each have a huge slug hanging from their chests! It’s shockingly “normal”, literally, everyone has a slug, and of course, that’s all the more horrifying and unsettling.

Emily Pearson illustrates it all calmly, thoughtfully, showing us more and more about ’today’s reality’, how humans have learned to live alongside an alien parasite race in relative peace. The comic panels are thickly bordered as if darkly underlining the state of the “union”. The features and eyes of the characters are expressive, their upper lips are large, and above all, the stakes are big. After all, when you choose your slug, it’s a lifelong commitment. There is no ’slug of the day or New Slug for Spring!’ The art is handled so smoothly that it lulls us into a sense of acceptance. How strange and delightful. And creepy!

Kaylee Birch contributes brightly arrayed colours, sending a pleasant and accessible vibe. Ultra-professional lettering is by Andworld’s Justin Birch.

It’s an unsettling read, this Bonding book. We want to turn away in disgust from the very thought of a large fleshy parasite hanging from our chest. Yikes! Gross!! But Erman has interweaved the story elements in such a fashion as to make us ‘accept’ the existence of giant parasitic slugs. It’s so slyly done, so ‘world-built’ into the drama that as unlikely as it sounds, the slugs become major and minor characters themselves.

All is not peachy and creamy, of course. The dreams of happy coexistence are frequently shattered in violent ways, and the love angle, the quick trips to the ER, the interfamily fragility all play host to interesting twists and turns.

Bonus features include a four-page prequel, a “Choose Your Slug” page, and a look at the evolution of the book’s cover and the logo typography. (Designer is Tim Daniel)

Vault Comics, Bonding, $24.99 for 208 pages. Horror/Scifi/Romance

By Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!