Publisher: Legendary Comics
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Simon Bisley
Release Date: 19th Feb, 2015 (volume 1), 20th August, 2015 (volume 2)
The follow-up to Legendary’s Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk, Dreadstalker features the return of supernatural bounty hunter John Tower as we get to find out a little more about his true goals and motivations. The first thing that hits you about this series is the typically stellar artwork of Simon Bisley. While it’s a noticeable departure from his usual painted style, it still possesses a lot of his trademark manic energy, a trait which definitely comes to the fore during our hero’s frequent skirmishes with the wide assortments of monsters he encounters.
The creature design is truly impressive throughout, even if Bisley does struggle somewhat during the slower-paced ‘talky’ sections, with awkward expressions and inconsistent faces aplenty. When the pace picks up, however, this book is undeniably impressive, with fast-paced action sequences and lashings of gore all delivered with the familiar Bisley aggression.
Unfortunately, as striking as Bisley’s artwork undoubtedly is, Matt Wagner’s story comes across as more than a little hokey, packing in as many tropes and clichés as possible to the point where it almost feels like a parody in places. Sadly not, however, as this is a title which takes itself incredibly seriously, delivering lines like “Ostensibly, I am a hunter of such phantasms. In fact, these pursuits are incidental to my true goals” with an impossibly straight face while refusing to acknowledge the inherent absurdity of an immortal supernatural bounty hunter who takes requests for killing monsters from his personal website.
The story here essentially alternates between Tower dispatching some monster or other, then a section where his unofficial partner, FBI agent Alicia Hardwicke, digs a little into his background, then Tower dispatches another monster, and so on and so on. It’s a fairly straightforward flow, and one which gets more than a little repetitive as the bulk of the book whizzes by without any real development or answers. Near the end the curtain is pulled back just a little, providing the undeniable highlight of the book as Tower finally opens up a little to his ‘partner’, but by that time it was unfortunately a case of too little too late as my investment in the series had long since evaporated.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a solid idea in here somewhere, but the questionable tone and bone-dry deliver make this a fairly tough read. Ultimately then, while it’s undoubtedly easy on the eye and features some truly impressive visual beats, The Tower Chronicles is a difficult title for me to really recommend.
The Tower Chronicles: Dreadstalker volume 1 is available from Turnaround Publisher Services, who generously provided us with this review copy, via their official website.