Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #2
- Words: Mike Mignola
- Art: Ben Stenbeck
- Colors: Dave Stewart
- Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
- Price: $2.99
- Release Date: Jul 30, 2009
Posted by Lee Newman on Aug 7, 2009
A skeptic by heart, Sir Edward Grey finds his investigation leading him into a dark underbelly of Victorian London. Will he believe before it is too late to save others from dying?
Grey is not comfortable here, but truth be told he is uncomfortable anywhere. He seems ill at ease with the police, who seem to dislike him in return. He admits he is uncomfortable with the title the Queen has bestowed on him. He also seems uneasy around other studiers of the occult. He may very well be a man before his time.
At this point he is willing to broaden his concept of what could be doing the killing around him. However, he is aware that the world of the occult has as much bunk as it has true phenomenon. Following the Captain, an enigmatic sort who claims tall tales of inspiring Swift’s more non-fiction than thought Gulliver’s Travels, he goes to meet a medium. What he sees rocks his world view. This is no table banging seance, this is the real deal.
Mignola is laying out a period mystery drama with a supernatural foundation. One would expect no less from him. What is astonishing is that he makes this London of 1879 just as real as the settings he places the BPRD in during the Forties or where Hellboy lives out his story in the present. It is a fertile mind that can handle such diverse locales and times so capably. The mystery is tense in this one, the stakes high, but as of yet there is not a lot of out and out action. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. He is doing solid character work and that is to be commended. This book is as much about mood as it is the horrible.
Mignola is giving us background in his larger epic here. It is great to see how far back his story goes. That kind of world building is what makes such a complex concept work. Here we see Victorian London’s dark corners, its alleys and the men who would profit at the expense of others.
Scott Allie, the editor of most of the Hellboy saga, has stated in the afterwords to this book that Mignola is laying a larger story. That is what is most appealing about the books. While this story works well on its own, it is part of a bigger picture that the creator has been painstakingly revealing since the beginning. We meet a form of Grey at the end of the very first Hellboy story, but we are just now getting to know what he is all about. Allie promises that we will have to wait longer for the connection between the events here and the event in Wake the Devil, but there is no doubt at this point that Mignola has a plan and will tie it all together.
Stenbeck is as formidable an artist as any that has taken on the creatures and characters of this world. There is a compatibility to the writer’s own art that leads to a familiar feel to the piece. However, the lines here are smoother and when Stewart’s colors are added, the rich tapestry of the locale for so much steam punk, the setting for Moore’s Jack the Ripper, and the alleys that Springheel Jack haunts in Grecian and Riley’s "Julia" arc of Proof not only comes alive, but is transformed into a nexus for the evil magics at work in the world. Like the script, his art is methodical in building a gnawing tension that slowly moves the reader to the edge of his seat. It is a masterful thriller that surprises in what would seem a lackadaisical pace.
Witchfinder is a great entry in the greater odyssey that Mignola is taking us on. As always, it is a compelling read that makes all other supernatural teemed books seem insignificant.
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