Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, Volume 3: The Mysteries of Unland Review (Kim Newman, Tyler Crook)

This is the first new Witchfinder book in some time and it sees Mike Mignola step back as Kim Newman and Maura McHugh take over the writing - and unfortunately produce the only dismal volume in the series so far. 

Set in 1881, Sir Edward Grey is enlisted by the Crown to investigate the murder of one of its servants in Hallam, rural Somerset. The victim was drowned in a tub containing the town’s only produce, Poole’s Elixir, and had mysterious electrical burns on his skin. Off goes Sir Edward to solve the case! 

The murder mystery of this book is fine in that everything sort of makes sense (except for why did all the kids have all-black eyeballs?), though it’s not very exciting to read as it plays out slowly and unremarkably. Without getting into spoilers, the motives of the murderer turn out to be very glib and unsatisfying - quite why they need to do what they want to do is never really explained - while the formation of the town itself is also a poorly constructed origin. 

The worst part by far is Newman/McHugh’s treatment of Sir Edward’s character. He comes off as incredibly bland; a dour, two dimensional pseudo-detective that never comfortably fits into this story. It’s been a few years since I read the first two books but I don’t remember him being this unimpressive in Mignola’s hands. 

Worse still is how passive he is throughout until, by the end, he’s little more than a hopeless observer to events playing out. Really, Sir Edward could have been left out entirely and this whole story would have been unaffected, resolving itself in the same way - that’s how worthless his inclusion in this book is! 

I did like how Newman/McHugh created a local dialect for the townsfolk and Newman used his extensive Victorian knowledge (he’s the author of the Anno Dracula books) to bring a genuine sense of the times to the script. Hallam did seem like it could’ve been a real place in Somerset county. And I did appreciate how the ending isn’t quite so pat as it could’ve been (with a bizarre cameo from a familiar face in the last panel for some reason!). 

Tyler Crook’s artwork is quite nice even if I’m still unconvinced his style befits the horror genre, and I liked the tribute to Victorian pulp art. Dave Stewart’s colours look amazing as always and brilliantly change with the different eras. 

I like this series but Kim Newman and Maura McHugh are no kind of replacement for Mike Mignola. The third Witchfinder volume is a weak and forgettable addition to an otherwise great title.

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, Volume 3: The Mysteries of Unland

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