Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: Fred Van Lente
Art: Guiu Vilanova, Mauricio Wallace
Release Date: 15th June 2016
Mixing the genres of horror, fantasy, or science fiction with a police procedural is not a new concept. It’s something that’s been done to death in movies and on TV and in comic books for years, but that’s because the potential is so interesting. I don’t mind taking something that’s been done a thousand times as long as you have something new to bring to the table. When I picked up the first issue of Weird Detective, I thought to myself “Oh, another one of these?” because it’s been a while since one of these genre procedurals has worked for me. So, does this one break the mold? Let’s break down the inaugural issue of Dark Horse’s new series Weird Detective.
The first issue of this series introduces us to the titular weird detective, Detective Sebastian Greene. Sebastian isn’t just your normal detective, hell he’s not even human, which makes him particularly great at his job. Greene is a being from another world, inhabiting the body of a Detective to seek out the cosmic beasts that infest our world. Two bizarre crime scenes wrap Greene up in an abnormal plot, even for him. He has to manage this all while dealing with his new partner Sana Fayez, who has ulterior motives of her own.
One of the defining aspects of this book is just how intelligent it is. Right from the get-go, this book had the potential to be very artsy-pretentious, but it never falls into that trap. We spend a lot of time in the mind of our protagonist, Detective Greene, who explains a lot of the different senses he can experience and such. It’s something that could’ve ended up being very confusing, but writer Fred Van Lente knows how to take these large concepts and make them interesting and compelling to read, like the coolest science class ever. There are plenty of times where a writer thinks he knows what he’s talking about, but never quite seems to get it. Fred Van Lente “gets it” he understands this material and how to successfully translate it in a way that’s not too complex for audiences, but still complex enough.
Don’t let the complexity fool you though, this book manages to juggle the fantasty and darkness with effective humor. I was surprised by how often the jokes worked for me, never getting a belly laugh but some very strong chuckles consistently throughout the whole book. It’s a fish-out-of-water story that we’ve seen plenty of times, but the writing is so sharp and clever that it makes it work. That humor in particular is something that adds to the fun storytelling. It brings it a step above many other stories of this ilk.
I’ve seen plenty of products that come from eight different things that the writer loved as a kid being blended into one story, a lot of times it becomes a mess but this book in particular is able to take all these different concepts and manage to make it feel fresh. This book is H.P. Lovecraft meets Hellblazer meets Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files but never feels contrived. It feels inspired by these properties, while still managing to create its own flavor, something that is very easy to fuck up.
I can’t wait to see where this series goes. Van Lente is able to take a story that I’ve seen told a thousand times, but bring so much imagination and intelligence to it, while bringing plenty of fun and oddities to it as well and creating something special. This book is the equivalent of Trail Mix. Sure, all of the ingredients can be found separately and they’re delicious, but when you mix them together like this it’s truly awesome. I hope this series finds it’s audience, because the audience that it aims for is going to love this. I can’t recommend this enough, if this sounds like you’re kind of book: IT IS. Even if this doesn’t sound like your type of thing (like me) you should still give it a shot. The bizarre twists and turns that it constantly takes, teemed with the intelligent and fun storytelling makes for one of the best new books currently on shelves.
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The writer of this piece was: Mike Annernio
Mike Tweets from @MikeAnnerino