weird detective 1 review
Dark Horse Comics has a pedigree for the occult and weird ”“ think their Hell Boy and Brain Boy titles. So the prospect of a Cthulhu related detective series by Fred Van Lente ”“ writer for Conan, Brain Boy, and others ”“ with an air of horror and mystery piqued my interest. Weird Detective is an amalgamation of these themes that could either go wonderfully together to summon a raging beast of unimaginable [creative] force or sputter out in a cloud of smoke.
The description of Weird Detective on Dark Horse’s website reads:
True Monster Detectives
The streets of New York have been plagued by a pattern of crimes too weird and bizarre for the average detective. Lurking in the evidence are shadows of loathsome horrors from beyond space and time, seeking to usher in the unimaginable evil of the Old Ones. And the only man capable of fighting against the unspeakable terrors isn’t a man at all. Detective Sebastian Greene is one of them””it takes a monster to catch a monster.
The opening pages start off strange enough: A mysterious death, plodding explanatory exposition, and odd visual cues. The titular Weird Detective and narrator is soon introduced as Detective Sebastion Greene, until recently a middle-of-the-road and skating-to-retirement member of the police force, who in the past few months has propelled himself like a rising star.
Sure, he has odd habits and his speech doesn’t feel right, but he’s from Canada. Plus, wouldn’t you know it the loner is saddled with his first partner within the first few pages too. If you think that’s a spoiler you haven’t seen a hundred cop shows in the past few decades.
From there the story starts to deviate from the normal though, because this strange man who just doesn’t seem “right” with the in-human ability to solve crimes is actually in-human. He can read minds and “talk” through eye contact with animals, along with a self-proclaimed total of 16 senses that enable his abilities that are each explained through protracted thought bubbles prior to their use. The insights into Greene’s mind serve to set him apart as something out-of-this-world, which he is, and demonstrate Fred Van Lente’s obvious grasp of the occult. Though in most cases the pacing in Weird Detective could be helped with the old adage, “show, don’t tell.”
Many of these side cast members follow the formulaic introductions but then throw in a twist that gives them depth and interest. While the partners’ path that leads her to Minor Crimes ”“ the departmental dumping ground for the bizarre unsolvable cases no one wants ”“ is something seen a hundred times before her attitude and personal life give her a layer of complexity that endear the reader to her. Though it is the cursing and sardonic cat who steals his introductory scene and begs for more time.
Weird Detective suffers from its own focus on feeling other-worldly. The attempts to make Greene feel like an outsider work but the pacing suffers for the effort at points. Once you get past this however, Weird Detective finds its foothold. The Lovecraftian mythos feels natural intertwined through gruesome murders and a looming Old Ones threat that give an undertone throughout the issue. A balance is reached, alternating between interactions peppered with awkward fumbling by Greene to maintain his charade and the hidden world of the monsters who Greene must track to find his way home.
What at first seemed to be slow and grating grows into a comfortable understanding of what would otherwise be an incomprehensible world. It’s this ease by which the world is built that at first hampered my opinion in truth. The long exposition and awkward main character was a wall to get over but then after that the walk was smooth ”“ but the memory of the effort to scale that wall stuck around. It wasn’t until after I had finished reading it that I realized how easily I had accepted the monsters and Lovecraft lore, or how I wanted to learn how the strings of murders were tied together the overarching mystery of the Old One’s threat.
With all its ingredients Weird Detective #1 didn’t summon a raging monster but rather a suckling tentacled babe, one that given time and care could still grow to be a creature of myths and legend. Weird Detective #1 goes on sale on June 15th at your local comic shop, or for more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.