Originally published in three separate comics between June of 2016 and January of 2017, James McCulloch’s hard-hitting graphic novel ‘Little Girl Black’ was published as a trade paperback volume in December of 2016.

DLS Synopsis:
On the surface Jonathan Watkins seemed like a good guy.  A hardworking and successful professional who fostered young teenaged girls.  Took them into his home a cared for them with his sister.  At least, that’s what he told people.  The reality was a very different story.

The girls weren’t fostered.  They weren’t vulnerable teenagers who were put under his care.  They were all snatched.  Abducted and locked away in his basement.

Each day he’d return home from work, remove his clothes, and go see his girls.  There were five of them down there.  Five young girls, locked away in his vast basement.  If one of them stepped out of line then he’d beat them.  Sometimes so bad that they died.  And when that happened he’d simply replace them.  Get a new girl in to keep together the family unit.  The family he insisted upon.

Each girl was carefully chosen for their role in the family.  Red, Blonde, Chink, Black and Mary.  Their real names were all long forgotten.

But it was Black who always suffered the worst beatings.  Daddy always came down on Black the worst.  Whereas Mary could do no wrong.  She was undoubtedly his favourite.  His cherished little girl.

So when a drinking glass was accidentally broken by Red, it’s Black that bears the brunt of Daddy’s anger.  However, as is so often the case, the punishment ended in Black being beaten to death.  Which means that Daddy will need to go out any find another Black for their family.  Another young black girl to join them in the basement.

Unfortunately for fourteen-year-old Cass – she’s exactly what Watkins is looking for…

DLS Review:
When extreme horror author Matt Shaw announces that a graphic novel is well and truly fucked up, you seriously need to sit up take note.  From the man who penned the ‘Sick B*stards’ novels as well as a whole heap of similarly uncompromising extreme horror – it’s safe to say that such a comment cannot be taken lightly.

James McCulloch’s graphic novel ‘Little Girl Black’ is a publication which deserves such a warning.  It’s one of those stomach-churningly uncomfortable reads that tears into you with a hard-hitting gut-punch of fucked-up no-holds-barred psychological horror.

The story itself is relatively simplistic.  You’ve got a sick and twisted sonofabitch who’s got a bunch of teenaged girls locked up in his basement (in a similar vein to that Austrian wacko Josef Fritzl).  He’s violent and cold.  The sort of crazyass misogynistic bastard who’ll snap at the slightest thing and go completely overboard with the resulting ‘punishment’.  Of course, when I say overboard I mean beat the living shit out of you – more often than not resulting in death or permanent damage or disfigurement.

This twisted psychopath gets away with it because he’s got that whole wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing thing going on.  The image he projects to the outside world is that of a hardworking, handsome, do-gooder niceguy.  The girls are referred to as his ‘foster kids’.  But we know different.  From the first few pages we’re given an inside view of what goes on in that basement.  In a matter of a few pages we witness the brutal violence he visits upon these young teenagers.  We see how he destroys their morale, reduces them to broken playthings, and kills without remorse when his anger flares up.

However, in telling this story, McCulloch doesn’t wimp out of the barbaric details one bit.  Everything that goes on down in that basement is exposed.  The racial slurs he throws at his girls.  The fucked up way his youngest – Mary – adores him.  The rivalry.  The horrific way the girls all fall in line.  It cuts deep and sends ice cold shivers down your spine.

But there’s another side to this brutally unforgiving read.  The new replacement ‘Black’ girl has spirit.  She’s only fourteen years old, but man can she stand on her own two feet.  This story is essentially her journey.  Her strength of character that burns through the victimisation.  Her unwillingness to be brutalised like the others.

There are times in this story when you’ll feel sick to the stomach at the sheer vileness you’re witnessing.  The racism, the violence, the mental and physical torture that these girls are subjected to – it hammers at your skull, page by page smashing away at your brain until it feels like little more than a pulverised mess.  But out of that hell, out of the desperation and brutality, comes hope.  As this young fourteen-year-old girl starts fighting back, as she starts plotting to free herself and the other girls from the basement, your heart starts to pound with a surge of fighting pride for the girl.  If anything, it’s an absolute testament to McCulloch’s writing, how emotionally vested you become in the tale.

So yeah, it’s not an easy read at all.  Admittedly it’s not a particularly long read.  However, there’s so much in there to swallow you up.  Each frame takes more flesh out of you.  Each page begs more questions.  Opens up more thoughts.  Provokes a deeper response.  It’s a painful ordeal, but ultimately a breathtakingly rewarding one.

Of course with graphic novels it’s not just the story itself that takes you on the journey, it’s also the accompanying artwork.  Here artist Pedro Mendes delivers moderately detailed, black & white pen and ink work.  Scenes are kept reasonably free of clutter or background.  Often the frames are solely focussed upon the characters.  It’s an effective approach and one that creates a stark and bold vision of the brutality on show.

Ultimately what you get with ‘Little Girl Black’ is a story drenched in hurt, sorrow, mental anguish and stomach-clenching torment.  It’s a brave and uncompromising offering – and one that will no doubt have some readers wishing they’d never picked the fucking thing up.  But should you push through the magma of pain and the mind-numbing torture – should you fight through all the hurt and mental torment – you’ll find you’ll eventually come away from the ordeal bruised, bloodied and beaten, but feeling stronger because of the actions of this one incredibly defiant young girl.  It’s a powerful reward.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 76 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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