Story: Mike Mignola, Scott Allie
Artwork: Santiago Caruso, Dave Stewart
Release Date: 13th January, 2016
Abe Sapien, in this issue, serves merely as a conduit to the telling of a hellish story. Discovering a book on witchcraft and necromancy by Gustav Strobl in the library of Prof. Bruttenholm, Abe shows an interest which Bruttenholm refuses to indulge. After retiring to bed, a Dr Mallory appears, purporting to be from B.R.P.D. research, who is more than happy to enlighten Abe about the book and The Black School. He relates the journey of a young Gustav Strobl who graduates from The Black School and ends up in Hell. He makes a pact with the devil in order to be forever a servant of the ghoulish master of which the book, so readily dismissed by Bruttenholm, forms an integral part.
This stand-alone issue is exceptional, a fireside ghost and ghoul story told to scare and plant a seed; essentially the purpose of Strobl’s book. The art in Bruttenholm’s house is good but once we get into Strobl’s world, boy, it is absolutely beautiful. We are treated to scratchboard panels, exquisitely rendered and coloured in the most considered, muted, antiquated tones. It is a perfect match to the story unfolding. It recalls lithographs, woodcuts, linocuts of the period. The scenes of hell, of pandemonium could be lifted straight from Bruegel’s visions of Hell. But, horrifically, with more clarity.
The level of detail is quite remarkable and you could literally look at some of those hellish panels for a devilish amount of time. At one point, Strobl comes across witches in the woods – all rendered in cool blues and blacks, cold as a witches tit – except for the scarlet devil in the centre, a red crow and the warm light of a lantern. It is truly quite frightening and brought to mind the experience of hearing Tam O’Shanter as a small child in school. Caruso has delved deep into my head and plucked out the very things that terrified me about that poem. To see it on the page, so detailed and macabrely laid out is breathtaking.
It may not add much to the B.R.P.D world, nor feature much of Abe himself, but this is a devilishly good slice of occultist history and myth wrapped up in a spectacularly stunning 22 pages.
The Writer of this piece was: Hazel Hay
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