ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs,’ Original Graphic Novel

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is published by Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, and written and illustrated by Celine Loup. The horror graphic novel is inspired by the works of seminal authors Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House) and Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby). The book follows Emma, who after giving birth fears a supernatural force in the house is putting her family in danger. As her husband becomes less and less involved in the life of Emma or her baby, she begins to lose her mind. Between the lack of sleep and a baby that won’t stop crying, Emma grows more and more desperate.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs starts off as Emma is seeing a psychiatrist. She relays her downward spiral starting from the birth of her child. Emma’s husband, Thomas, does nothing to care for the infant, leaving the chores, errands, and childbearing to Emma. As Emma loses sleep she begins to resent her child who cries more than the average infant. One night, after hearing strange noises upstairs, Thomas emerges from the attic but through her sleep deprivation, Emma becomes convinced that this man is no longer her husband, but someone or something else entirely. The themes the book explores, isolation of postpartum depression and being a mother with an unsupportive partner, are familiar to many women. Emma’s exhaustion and the reveal of the truth about her child’s birth lead her to have a mental breakdown. Emma’s inability to see reality is horrifying truth for many people dealing with mental illness. Loup elegantly explores these themes and weaves various horror elements into the story. The graphic novel is unsettling, uncomfortable, and deeply sad.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is beautifully illustrated in black and white. I traditionally have difficulty getting into comics that use this style, but the shot strokes in the linework and lack of color add to the eeriness of the book and elevate the horror elements. The original graphic novel plays more like a thriller than a straight-up horror back and while there are panels that are uncomfortable, there is no real gore in the book.

The illustrations, particularly of the character’s faces, have a haunting beauty. Throughout the story, something seems off, but not noticeable enough to point out. This bizarre quality within the artwork compliments the twist at the end of The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs by showcasing Emma’s mental instability through small visual ques.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is a haunting but beautiful graphic novel that stands apart from a lot of books currently on shelves. The unsettling artwork mixed with its eerie, uncomfortable but ultimately relatable storyline makes it stand apart. The discussion of postpartum depression is not something I have ever seen in comics. Considering there are more than 3 million cases a year in the United Staes of postpartum depression, it is a condition that needs to be talked about more.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is available in comic book stores everywhere September 18, 2019.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs
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TL;DR

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is a haunting but beautiful graphic novel that stands apart from a lot of books currently on shelves. The unsettling artwork mixed with its eerie, uncomfortable but ultimately relatable storyline makes it stand apart.