Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #1
- Words: Mike Mignola
- Art: Ben Stenbeck
- Colors: Dave Stewart
- Story Title: In the Service of Angels: Part One
- Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
- Price: $2.99
- Release Date: Jun 24, 2009
Posted by Steve Kanaras on Jul 6, 2009
The Hellboy franchise is successful precisely because every comic in the line captures the feel and appeal of the original. These are stories filled with occult and supernatural mysteries steeped in historical events. Mignola takes great pride in the work and the level of research and “fictionalization” of occult lore really sets the books apart from their competitors. Witchfinder is no exception. This time the protagonist is Sir Edward Gray and the action is set in 19th century London, recently informed by the discoveries of Charles Darwin and greatly interested in the mystical world.
As several men who participated in an archaelogical expedition turn up dead and well drained of their biological fluids, Sir Edward Grey is called in to investigate the mysterious murders. Grey learns that the dig turned up evidence not only of a lost civilization but even of a race of creatures not quite human that defy the proposed descent of mankind. Grey visits with a Lord Wellington and learns that the past may not be entirely buried.
Mignola weaves a fascinating tale here, worthy of the best Victorian horror literature. The murders give it the necessary horror elements, and the lost civilization is a staple of the wild theories that still inform the most credulous of conspiracy theorists seeking a fantastic world. He even provides a hint of the Hollow Earth theory, which no doubt will play a large role in the limited series.
The character of Grey is by no means a mere bookworm, but rather an investigator not afraid to use a pistol should the need arise. He is an excellent pulp hero, not saddled as yet with a complicated backstory. Just the kind of blend of bravery and intelligence that is suggested by the nickname “Witchfinder.” He is introduced as a well respected investigator to whom even Queen Victoria owes a debt of gratitude.
Ben Stenbeck illustates the issue with the required heavy brush befitting the Hellboy universe. Victorian London has been illustrated well in comics, specifically by Eddie Campbell in From Hell, and this work compares favorably. Bookcases loaded with leather-bound books, and carved curiosities abound, as do gas-lit streetlamps and horse-drawn carriages creating a creepy mood.
In all Witchfinder is a perfect beginning to an intriguing tale, complete with a mysterious monster, 19th century science, and a compelling leading man. A worthy addition to the Mignola universe and a fine horror comic in the Hellboy tradition.
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Eric Lindberg Jul 6, 2009 at 4:23pm
I was very excited for this. Edward Grey is one of those intriguing background characters that you always want to know more about. Glad we're finally getting a chance to. So far, this has not disappointed. Classic Mignola pulp/Victorian horror.
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