Sorry for the lack of a review last week. I was so busy last week that it was Sunday before I even remembered I was supposed to have written something. I’ll try not to let it happen again.
We return from our review hiatus with Igor: Occult Detective #1, a new series from the ever-dependable publisher 215 Ink, written by spellcheck nemesis Kyle J. Kaczmarkczyk and drawn by H. Crawford. This chapter re-establishes Igor as a kind of Sherlock Holmes of the paranormal world, with Frankenstein’s Monster recast as his trusty Watson. In this done-in-one tale, we see investigate the discovery of a secret lab in an old house, and what the owner believes to be a haunting, though things turn out quite differently…
It’s an interesting idea, though one that slightly suffers from the portrayal of its title character. To me, a story like this is going to soar or fall based on how compelling its lead is – House without Hugh Laurie’s performance is just another medical drama – and I don’t think Kaczmarkczyk quite imbues his Igor with enough personality to make him stand out, with us getting a sense that he’s a bit gruff, but not much else. He’s more successful with Frankenstein’s Monster, here just referred to as “Mr. Frank”. Mr. Frank is portrayed as a pensive, philosophical soul, suitably different from, say, the Frankenstein of the DCU.
The story itself is good, and works well as a self-contained yarn. In the age of decompression, it was nice to get setup, reversal, big shocks and a satisfying resolution all within the space of a single issue. But on the flipside, such complete resolution doesn’t leave us with a hook for issue #2. In a way, this feels a bit more like an issue #0, a prologue introducing us to these characters and this world, rather than the start of anything larger. However, if the title is to be a series of standalone cases, that too could make for a refreshing dynamic.
I actually really enjoyed the artwork of H. Crawford. I was expecting something really dark and Gothic from the title, and though the heavy blacks in the inking and the colour scheme do give something of that vibe, the art itself has a nice cartoony touch that lends a lightness to the world. There seems to be a certain softness and looseness to the lines here, giving the book a fluid, flowing aesthetic. And later on in the issue, there are a couple of splash pages with tentacled monstrosities that Crawford hits right out of the park.
Less successful is the lettering. It has been said that good lettering is invisible, and it’s only when lettering goes wrong that you notice it. And in the lettering here, done by both Kaczmarkczyk and Crawford, that seems to be the case. The very way they’re placed on the page is quite jarring. I mentioned above how soft and flowing the art was, but that’s contrasted with heavy, solid speech bubbles that really do just look patched on rather than feeling like they fit seamlessly into the fabric of the page. And there are a few occasions of confusing layouts, where I got mixed up about the order I should read the bubbles in a conversation, or awkward links in a bubble between panels. Again, lettering is a discipline where you don’t really notice the subtle craft behind it, but if something is done incorrectly, it can very quickly take you out of the page.
Minor niggles aside, however, I found Igor: Occult Detective #1 to be an enjoyable debut. It compares favourably with Image’s Witch Doctor, which treads on similar territory. Another solid entry for 215 Ink’s creator-owned pantheon.
Igor: Occult Detective #1 will be available to buy in 2013.