Saturday, September 25, 2004
Now for the third of the three publications that Mad Yak Press sent me, The Supernaturalists. As with Texarkana, this serves as an introduction for the upcoming ongoing series. Artist/writer duties are handled by the Subatomic team of the late Jorge Heufemann and the ever-present (at least at the Yak) Patrick Neighly. Set in Prohibition-era New York, the Supernaturalists the title refers to are police detective Edward Drake and his vampire companion Esme, who find themselves unlikely allies as Drake tries to get to the bottom of mysterious vampire-style killings plaguing the city.
Supernaturalists doesn't really function as a mystery story per se; you know about halfway in whodunit and what's at stake, if you'll excuse the pun. You also know, even earlier on, that Drake and Esme will become romantically attached. After the nature of the situation is revealed, really what we get is a basic adventure story, with the only suspense coming from wondering how they'll get through all the trouble going on around them. Once again, I gotta give Neighly a lot of credit for at least trying to come up with something a bit different, or at least trying to put a few creases in. I like the basic concept- a supernatural detective story, set in the 1920's...but as so often seems to be the case I like the idea a lot more than the execution. Part of the problem is that Neighly is trying a bit too hard to give us hard-boiled, terse dialogue, and in the absence of any sort of narration to help me out, this whole story had a kind of disjointed feel about it. The events just didn't progress all that smoothly as I read, and I was often forced to backtrack to refresh my admittedly tenuous memory. Neighly plays a bit fast and loose with vampiric lore here as well- the bitten turn extremely quickly here, contrary to most previously established accounts. I think much of the blame, though, has to fall on Heufemann; while his art is competent and often above average in places- often reminding me of Miller without all the heavy blacks or Sean Phillips (with Romeo Tanghal inks?) even- sometimes his staging within the panels was arbitrary and confusing, and his figure drawings had a samey-ness (now there's a professional-sounding word) about them, something which wasn't so much of a problem with his work on Subatomic. Perhaps color would have helped me here, who knows. I've no doubt that he would have improved this with experience, and it's a shame we won't get to see how much. In all fairness, I'll admit that I read this in about three sittings over the space of around two weeks, hardly conducive to the ideal reading experience, and that contributed to my problems as well.
Supernaturalists is a interesting concept, and while I found it a bit more challenging to read than I usually like, I am kinda interested in where Neighly takes his odd couple from here so I might just find myself taking a look at the first issue of the ongoing when it comes out. B