Fred Van Lente is a prolific comics lifer having written everything from titles and series like Action Philosophers, Marvel Zombies, Archer & Armstrong, Cowboys & Aliens, Conan The Avenger, Power Man & Iron Fist, Magnus Robot Fighter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Ivar, Time Walker and even a biographical play about Jack Kirby. Throughout his extensive bibliography, Van Lente has shown a knack for finding humor in the bizarre and complex with an extensive knowledge of world history and academia. His new Dark Horse Comics series, Weird Detective, is one of the writers strongest most recent debuts. It plays to the Van Lente’s aforementioned strengths while exploring Lovecraftian mythology within the context of a modern New York City crime noir.
Weird Detective follows what appears to be detective Sebastine Greene, an NYPD veteran that has undergone a mysterious transformation, recently making him one of the top detectives in his department. In that same time period, Greene has begun to exhibit strange behavior that his co-workers chalk up to him being “Canadian” while he takes on a series of brutal murder cases that are more then they appear. Weird Detective creates an engrossing story, setting and cast by mixing his trademark oddball humor with the striking horror mythology of HP Lovecraft in a New York City backdrop that feel’s authentic and lived in. In that way, the writer has an impressive hold on all the story elements. Right from the books opening page, Weird Detective captures the readers attention by taking a offbeat scientific examinations of the contrast between our reality and the books fantasy elements while introducing the stories horror tropes. From the jump, Weird Detective is all the things that Van Lente does best executed with a smooth naturalism that only the creator is capable of and it continues that way for the books 50+ pages. If you’re a fan of Van Lente’s past work, Weird Detective is a must read and if your not familiar with the writer, this is about as good an introduction as you could get. Art and colors are handled by Guiu Vilanova & Mauricio Wallace. Vilanova’s line and character work is stiff in parts, but his layout’s are first class story telling while the horror moments are striking and visceral. In that way, Vilanova is best when he let’s the story telling blend the readers perception of reality with the books supernatural elements. His more straight forward figure drawing can leave a bit to be desired but his overall skills in visual narration carries it through. On the other hand, colorist Mauricio Wallace is nearly perfect in establishing the tone and atmosphere of Weird Detective. Like Van Lente’s writing, the color palate jumps out at the reader right from the start and maintain an eerie and unsettling tone throughout the book to great effect. Wallace uses a contrast between a dirty brown, dark purple and pitch black for an atmospheric experience. As a colorist whose career has been primarily spent doing work for Dynamite, Wallace has the potential to be a break out talent and is one of Weird Detectives best revelations in terms of craft.
I came into Weird Detective skeptical; the Lovecraft mythology is overdone, Van Lente does so much work that it can feel overwhelming, the art team was a mystery and Dark Horse Comics has been very hit or miss with it’s creator owned comics going back a few years at this point. Weird Detective ends up exceeding expectations in all the best ways possible. It’s complex and engrossing while also being wildly fun and exciting. In it’s debut issue, Weird Detective presents an evolution in the implementation of Lovecraft mythology while showcasing Van Lente at his absoloute best.
Disclosure: Publisher Dark Horse provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.