Next month brings us the debut of Weird Detective from Dark Horse Comics. The five issue mini-series by Fred Van Lente (writer) and Guiu Vilanova (artist) is a supernatural crime procedural infused with characters and ideas from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. It is currently scheduled for release on June 15.
You’d think a series set up like this seem perfect for a Lovecraft fan like myself, but I was wary. I’ve been let down by more Cthulhu mythos comics than I care to admit. Could Weird Detective manage to capture major Lovecraftian elements without (poorly) aping the Master of Weird Fiction’s distinct style?
And more importantly, is it good?
Weird Detective #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
- A little science, a little terror, and one severely grotesque murder victim. So far, so good.
- …and now we hit the junk science. Fortunately, this particular brand of junk science all types of interesting/good.
- Greene/Fayez are a fun team to read.
- Not that I have a lot of ‘cat dialogue’ to compare things to, but this is perfect.
- Gruesome Crime Scene #2–in real time!
- Freaking Canadians…
- *Squeals with joy over the biggest Lovecraft reference/connection we’ve seen so far*
- Ugh. Greene just made me feel really bad/guilty about being part of the human race.
- Yeah, I’m not a real big ‘haki’ fan, either.
- *Screams with joy over an even bigger Lovecraftian reference/connection*
- Every good procedural needs a quirky mortician.
- *HEAD EXPLODES AT THE BEST LOVECRAFT REFERENCE/CONNECTION YET*
Is It Good?
Lovecraft fans, rejoice! The modern mythos comic we’ve always wanted is finally here.
On the art side of things, Guiu Vilanova’s pencils show a keen eye for storytelling, both in how his characters emote and how the action is sequenced. When things get crazy, the paneling keeps things well-ordered and easy to follow. I know that sounds like a simple concept, but I’ve read my fair share of comics (especially Lovecraft-theme ones) with layouts that looked a Shoggoth’s bowel movement. Vilanova also shows a stunning proficiency for portraying motion and kinetic energy, which makes the horror-centric scenes even more chilling/awesome.
Colorist Mauricio Wallace also does wonderful work, particularly on the issue’s final pages. Plenty of horror comics employ ethereal nighttime settings, but few ever look this good.
As a team, Wallace/Vilanova shift effortlessly between crisp, clear lines and occasional abstract/murky aesthetics. The gore is revolting, the monsters are terrifying, and the double page spread featuring some of Lovecraft’s greatest creations begs to be made into a print/poster.
As far as the story goes, Van Lente doesn’t just nail the mythos or the references. He also creates two exceptionally likable main characters in Greene and Fayez who are also completely different–and not in the ‘buddy cop trope’ way. Greene’s bizarre behavior is unveiled with a perfect balance of tension, fear, and humor.
Lovecraft’s writing isn’t exactly known for it’s laugh-out-loud wit, but Greene’s story is infused with some great comedic moments without ever compromising the unsettling main narrative. He’s also quickly established as having extraordinary abilities in a way that is both thorough and entertaining. There are times when the pretend science part of sci-fi/fantasy stories makes me want to skip ahead, but Greene’s abilities (and how he explains them) are made me want to know more.
Fayez, on the other hand, is both completely relatable and unflappably cool. She’s well aware how messed up this case (and her new partner) is, but instead of monologuing for thirty pages about her cosmic insignificance in the face of incomprehensible madness, she pushes relentlessly forward toward finding some answers—even to possible the detriment of her own family.
The dialogue between Greene and Fayez might be the best part of the book…unless you count the monsters…or the fascinating way Greene uses his otherworldly senses to solve both cosmic and ‘normal’ crimes against humanity…or the great supporting cast that adds to the story without ever stealing too much of the spotlight…or the way Van Lente manages to hook his story into multiple aspects of the Cthulhu mythos in a way that is both organic and narratively satisfying…
Ugh. There’s just so much about this book that’s good. Even if you haven’t read a single sentence of Lovecraft’s prose, it’s still a supremely enjoyable read. For those of us familiar with his work, however, Weird Detective is liable to make you go mad with joy.