Comic Review: WEIRD DETECTIVE
WEIRD DETECTIVE #1
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Guiu Vilanova
Colorist: Maurício Wallace and Josan Gonzalez
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Ah, Lovecraft. You are such a bastard. On the one hand, your Cthulhu Mythos has the kind of legs that no writer of your era can match; you basically invented existential horror as we know it. On the other hand, existential horror isn’t necessarily the most accessible kind of horror so telling a straight Mythos story practically guarantees relative obscurity: see also Alan Moore’s The Courtyard, John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness and Fulci’s The Beyond. So what you do is you get post-modern on Cthulhu’s slimy ass. And this brings us to Weird Detective.
Writer Fred Van Lente takes the most post-modern of approaches to the story, one that is the story’s greatest strength and biggest weakness; the protagonist is a monster. Not the monster, of course. Thankfully, Fred Van Lente knows he’s writing pulp horror and not true post-modern horror; despite being a monster, our Canuck protagonist Sebastian Greene is still out to stop the greater horrors of the Mythos, which manifest in this issue as an intact human skin minus the inside stuff and a couple of other equally horrifying (and, naturally, unsolvable) deaths. Well, calling them “deaths” is an understatement but we’ll talk about that later. Let’s talk about Sebastian. This is definitely a fish-out-of-water detective story; anyone who watched the first season of Sleepy Hollow will experience more than a few moments of Deja Vu. Thankfully, Van Lente goes places that show doesn’t go, even so far as to kind of address Lovecraft’s racism via Greene’s partner Sana Fayez, a queer woman of color, who Greene callously uses to protect himself. But Fayez is more than just a victim; he actually doesn’t shy away from showing how a queer woman of color would be a cop. In many ways, it’s a risky move to depict her as manipulative in her relationship with her partner but it rings true given her development throughout. There’s a really delicious twist at the end of what would normally be the first issue and Lovecraft fans will get quite a thrill out of that twist, which still works just as well without a deep Mythos familiarity. That said, it does seem like Van Lente is really rushing through things; the inevitable reveal at the end (not a twist persay) is kind of blowing the load early. But then, the game is still very much afoot so it’s possible Van Lente has an ace up his sleeve…
While Van Lente’s attempts to freshen up the pulpier end of the Mythos are mostly successful, the art of Weird Detective are more than successful: Artist Guiu Vilanova has both precision and expressiveness, capable of setting a scene in glorious detail and allowing the emotions of the characters to come in full flush on their faces. It’s artists like Guiu who prove that comics are a medium more capable than motion pictures; the way he draws the world of Weird Detective feels like what season two of True Detective was reaching for with its mundane grittiness. In fact, Weird Detective looks even better than any of that show did and that’s down to the coloring team of Wallace and Gonzalez. The first thing you notice about their work is the sense of control and pacing; not every scene immediately pops with lurid hues. In fact, quite a bit of the book is blanketed in murky, ugly greens and blues but it also sometimes takes a few pages to subtly pull you back into a real world before lurid purples and yellows splash across the page at just the right time. But it’s not just the colors used or their timing but the techniques; a scene at a pool with a POV from underwater uses greens and blues to help convey depth of the watery kind. Similarly, when an iconic Mythos beast shows up near the end, there’s a fantastic glow added to the green that helps elevate the creature from icky to unearthly. Nate Piekos lends his solid, effective lettering, opting to let the rich, if ghastly, visuals speak for themselves but still firmly reinforcing the action.
Speaking as a Lovecraft fan that hasn’t invested as much in the whole canon of the original Mythos works, I am always interested in seeing those stories evolve. There’s a lot to be said in favor of the originals but they’re also very much a product of the time. They’re not… fun. Then again, existential horror isn’t mean to be fun. And if there’s a misstep in Weird Detective, it’s that there isn’t any real existential horror in play here, not yet at least. Instead, what we have is an extremely clever and gruesomely beautiful love letter to Lovecraft that also wants everyone to know why that love is there. And also, as a final note, this debut issue is double-sized which, at four dollars, is a steal given how quality the contents are. Highly recommended for all horror fans (yes, you WILL get your dose of gore so squeamish readers need not apply) and absolutely required for Lovecraft fans who don’t take their Mythos too seriously.
Formulaic Buddy Cop Trope