Sir Edward Gray: Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels (Dark Horse – Mignola / Stenbeck / Stewart)
So, yeah, after all my complaining yesterday, I was lucky enough to pull this book out to read last night. In comparison to everything I’ve read in the last month, this book is a masterpiece.
Let’s compare it to Olympus. Olympus was one long chase scene with no real interesting hooks. There was no stacking of storylines which keeps the reader interested and on their toes. The story sort of ended where it began. In the case of Witchfinder, the set up is quick the mystery begins, every page has a new intrigue, the humor is subtle and not force, the character flawed, the chase only takes a couple of pages, and then boom we’re off to the races. By the end of the book every initial suspect is dead, and we have no idea what to expect, EXCEPT the usual excellence that Mignola brings to a book, any book apparently.
We got a police investion plot line, steeped in a long forgotten ancient culture (culled from his usual late 19th early 20th secret history of the world, Order of the Golden Dawn, type stuff), a creature (or is it), obscure esoteric madmen running around all with their own agenda, and an engaging, sullen, mysterious, determined hero. By the end we are not where we started. This plot swirls around you, and keeps you moving. Like most Mignola stuff it’s spooky, not scary, an intellectual exercise not an emotional one, and effective because of it’s lack of gratuitous gore.
What makes Mignola truly great, exceptional really, is his attention and use of small details, empty panels where the action has left, but it’s obvious what has occured. It is amazing that he is able to convey this kind of story telling to all the talent he has choosen to work with. Every Hellboy, BPRD mythos book bears his immistakable finger print. His dialoge, character motivations, plot twists all seems so natural, they never jar you out of a story. It is truly phenominal.
If you have never read a Hellboy comic, you need to do yourself the greatest favor of your comic book life and go out there and get the trade paperbacks!!! Are you still in your chair? Get going, the shows just starting for you. Small side note, any Cthlulu fans out there, who haven’t tried on Hellboy or it’s BPRD little sibling, should check it out also. It is right up your alley and you won’t be disappointed.
Ben Stenbeck’s art, while some might call a bit plain, is in fact an awesome example of good graphic story telling. Easily recognizable characters, good clear coverage of action, nice backgrounds giving a sense of place and mood but not overpowering the page. And it’s chock full of those poetic little panels that just distill a moment into a single tight panel or action, that intensifies the mood all that more. He’s definately move a little Mignolaesque in this issue (as opposed to BPRD: Ectoplasmic Man or his Hellboy Animated book the Yearning), which is fine and understandable, but I’d hope he moves on from that stage and develops his own style also, which I’m sure he will. The beauty of the artists Mignola chooses is that they aren’t Mignola Clones, but they all unique except that they all share that fine, subtle sensibility of story telling he does.
And I’d be remiss is not mentioning Dave Stewart’s colors…again. Nothing gaudy, just exquisite flat colors the way comics should be done, no air brush and lighting effects and filters and textures piled up like a cheap, cable community access channel, palette knife painting show. What he does with sparse simple palette is 1000 times more interesting than any digital gobbledegook. And his colors don’t overwhelm a book like a bad make up job. Just brings the story and art out a bit. Exceptional as always.