When I first saw the Oni Press solicit for Archival Quality, I was immediately intrigued. A ghost story about librarians? Sign. Me. Up.
It appeared on NetGalley not long after and I immediately downloaded it, devoured it in one sitting, and then read it again.
In the interim, I got in touch with author Ivy Noelle Weir and artist Steenz for an interview, in which they talked to me about creating the book, the importance of public libraries, and more. (I personally think it’s a damn good read, but I’m biased.)
Archival Quality follows Celeste Walde, whose struggle with depression leads her to break down during a work shift at the local library. Consequently, she’s let go, and has to find another job — hopefully one she loves just as much.I devoured #ArchivalQuality (@ivynoelle, @steenz, @onipress) in one sitting, and then read it again. Click To Tweet
When Cel sees a listing for an archivist position at the Logan Museum, which was once a (poorly-run) mental health facility, she decides to apply, assuming it will be similar to her library job. Of course, it’s not like that at all. During Cel’s bizarre, pseudo–interview, she learns that if she takes the job, she’ll have to live in the apartment provided by the museum. Why? Because the Logan Museum archivist works overnight shifts, of course.
As expected, when Cel starts her work, things get a little… weird. She discovers that the history of the Logan Museum is far more sinister than she expects when she starts seeing the same former patient everywhere she looks — including her dreams. Cel loses time, suffers random nose bleeds, blacks out frequently, and struggles even harder with her mental health and relationships.
All the while, she tries desperately to find out more information on the patient she keeps seeing — and does her best to fulfill that patient’s request for help, despite the fact that Cel is having such a hard time taking care of herself.
Although Archival Quality primarily follows Celeste, the book is rounded out by an awesome ensemble cast: Kyle, Celeste’s well-intentioned but ultimately kind of crappy boyfriend, Abayomi, the chief curator of the Logan Museum, Holly, the museum librarian, Gina, Holly’s girlfriend, the mysterious Board, and of course, the ghost.
Each of these characters offers something different, both for Celeste and for the reader. Archival Quality takes an incredibly candid look at mental illness, even against the backdrop of such a classically haunted setting, and these characters all care about Cel in their own ways. They have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s clear that some of them (namely Holly) are more experienced in talking about mental health than others (like Kyle).Although #ArchivalQuality from @onipress primarily follows Celeste, the book is rounded out by an awesome ensemble cast. Click To Tweet
Furthermore, some of them are just bad at human interaction, or are so worried about themselves and their secrets that they have a hard time recognizing the difficulties that others may be experiencing. This book really runs the gamut on human experience, even though it’s such a relatively small microcosm of a universe.
Weir’s writing is emotional without being overwrought, and she focuses less on the boggy specifics of the Logan Museum and more on Celeste, her experiences, and what depression looks like for her. Each character has a very distinct voice and the book never feels like anything is forced, whether it’s narration or dialogue. Weir focuses on the parts of the story that matter, constructs logical narrative beats, and pushes the story forward in a concise, well-paced manner that doesn’t skimp on important details but also doesn’t get too wrapped up in exposition, which is wonderful.
Likewise, Steenz’s art illustrates what’s happening perfectly. Her line work and colors pack each page with a lot of punch, and the moments of silence provided in Weir’s writing are filled in beautifully with Steenz’s art. There are so many moments in Archival Quality that are classic spooks.#ArchivalQuality from @onipress really runs the gamut on human experience, even though it's such a relatively small microcosm of a universe. Click To Tweet
In our interview, Weir said she wouldn’t have done this story as a comic if Steenz wasn’t on board to provide art, and it’s easy to see why. These two work together in a way that makes this book feel utterly cohesive from start to finish, even though the book is nearly 300 pages and was completed in a relatively short amount of time.
I am really impressed with how Archival Quality tackles mental health and relationships, but also how it demonstrates the importance of public spaces for preserving history, even while leaning hard into the spooky-creepy-haunted stuff. This story is nuanced and well-handled, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Archival Quality Rating: ★★★★★
Archival Quality hits stores in March. You can pre-order the book on Amazon or at your local comic shop before February 12 to get it on release day. In Full Bleed received an advanced copy through NetGalley for the purposes of review.