Monday, October 17, 2005

This Comic Was Good - Strange Detective Tales #1

It is always a treat when you see books like Strange Detective Tales out on the marketplace. This book came out a few months ago, but I only recently came across it, and I am quite irked that I did not see it sooner, as this one is a real winner. For a measly four bucks, you get a lot of really good comic work, in two stories.

The first, by writer Jesse Bausch and artist James Callahan, is about two former monster sidekicks, Renfield (he of Dracula fame) and Igor (he of many mad scientist movie fame) who went to Hollywood in the late 30s to seek movie stardom by sellign their stories, but instead having to be forced to become private detectives to make a living. Bausch creates a very interesting late 50s Los Angeles here, and Renfield and Igor make for two intriguing leads. Both men have serious problems, but the reader is still engaged by them, even though, by DESIGN, they are not leading men types.

The story is about an old girlfriend of Renfield's, a ghost, who has gone missing. Renfield's search for her takes him all across the weird denizens of LA. Really, it is almost identical in setup to Warren Ellis' enjoyable Desolation Jones, except Renfield is not as engaging of a character as Jones, and, well, come on, Callahan is no JH Williams. That is not an insult, though.

Speaking of the art, Bausch spend a good deal of his text page talking about how blessed he is to be working with Callahan, and really, no offense to Callahan, as Callahan's pencils get the job done, and he definitely has an eye for good layouts, the star of this book is not Callahan, it is Bausch. The humor of the book, the creepiness of the book, and the "human" center of the book are all due to Bausch's devotion to the title, and it is quite impressive to see.

I especially enjoyed how quickly he introduces the reader to the concept of the comic, with a broad, in your face (and hilarious) opening, where we meet a client of theirs...a zombie whose husband had left her for (snicker) a FRESHER zombie. That's just classic. Callahan handles the drawing well in the scene, but the concept is the seller there.

This is a very enjoyable, very packed (THIRTY-SIX pages of story, and it does not go by quickly) with, well, strange detective tales (I especially liked the grounding nature of the stories, where Bausch details just what it means to be a detective who works with monsters. It is very reminscient of the work of Steve Niles in Lurkers, Brian Michael Bendis in Powers and Bill Willingham in Fables. All good company to be in).

The second story, by Joel Priddy (writer), Shane McDermott (penciller) and Patrick Godfrey (inker, letterer and greytones. He also lettered the first story), may even be a better SINGLE story than the first one. Joel Priddy is a great artist, so it is unfair that he is this good of a writer as WELL. This funny, but poignant, tale is of a reformed supervillain who now worries about whether he installed a doomsday device inside himself, set to go off in case of his death. His dim-witted oaf of a former assistant is of little help to him in rememebering. It is both hilarious and tragic, and the twist ending aids in both. VERY nice story. McDermott's art is strong.

All in all, this is the kind of comics we should all be super pleased to see. Anthologies where the whole is as good as the parts...where your four bucks buys a LOT.

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