In an effort to spread the love of our group reviews we’re taking an early look at Renegade Comics’ upcoming release Dept. of Monsterology. The book is out in October, but if you can pre-order it from your comic shop now. As with every group review the writers/reviewers of Comic Bastards will give the book a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass along with a short reason for the score. First here’s a quick blurb about the issue from Renegade Comics: Ofﬁcially, it's the Department of Cryptozoology, Mythological Studies, Parapsychology and Fortean Phenomena. But to the rest of the students and staff at the Dunsany College, bafﬂed by the cloak of secrecy that surrounds the Department and its affairs, it has another, more dismissive, name: The Department of Monsterology. Funded by the mysterious Hampton Foundation, the Dept. operates several ﬁeld teams that roam the globe on extended research expeditions.
Their brief: to investigate the dark and unexplored corners of our world - the places we've forgotten, lost or believe to be mythical. And to study those things that may still be lurking there.
I found this comic to be entertaining. It kept my interest so I gave it a buy. We follow two teams trying to find monsters. We really don’t get any more information than that. The comic is strange, not creepy the way I was thinking it would be. Team Challenger was the team that freaked me out. We see Victor, who looks like a version of Quasimoto but speaks in a lot of grnnb or rrrg. Whatever that means.
The thing that is so strange is Harry. He protects Amelia from the monsters underwater. Amelia has some sort of strong relationship with this man, so the whole time you think this is a man inside a very large machine. By the end of their part you see he is something different. I don’t know if I can even give him a pronoun to describe what is inside. It is weird and leads me to think this comic could be fairly entertaining for most.
The next team is Team Carnacki. Their story is pretty strange as well and I am wondering how these teams will cross paths and why they seem to just tolerate each other. Like I said the read was fun and I will be back for more as I am sure you will be after reading this first issue.
Split into two stories, each of which follows its own monster-chasing team of scientists, Monsterology will most likely become a creature-of-the-week kind of book in the same vein as Buffy, but with less charm and more scientific rhetoric. I found the monsters this issue to be pretty uninspired - especially for its launch issue - not to mention all kinds of weak. As it turns out, Chinese Vampires are allergic to mirrors, which is one of the lamest “silver bullets” I’ve seen since kids used a pickup truck to unwrap that Mummy in Monster Squad ... which SHOULD be a comic book.
Monsterology didn’t suck, but its over-reliance on scientific terminology to make it sound smart was a bit transparent and the stories weren’t as fun as they could be, especially when it’s about a bunch of people who go monster hunting. The art is steady, if not a bit cartoonish at points, making the overall package something I’d flick through, but probably not buy.
I’ll admit that the opening to this series is very slow and clunky. It almost completely lost me before I reached the third page which is a shame considering how incredible that third page is. Though it’s not the best opening, it does pick up from there and each following page piqued my interest more than the last. The cast of characters is pretty extensive, but with the inclusion of their dossier it was easy to keep track of them and their quirks.
The character designs were also delightful with most of the characters having a gentleman quality to them. Considering most of them are a play on other horror/monster tropes it really makes them stand out. It also made me think of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as well.
Additionally I enjoyed the dialogue and sharp wit. Since the story moves pretty quickly, each character needed to make an impression and the dialogue did just that. I particularly enjoyed De Tovar’s rant about Hampton reducing him to commoner status by leaving out the “De.” It was humorous, but also made his character perfectly clear. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and if you dig monsters or light horror stories then I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Kevin R: BORROW
There’s something I can’t get over very early on in Department of Monsterology #1. It’s the design of Harry Wilmington, professor of Cryptozoology and enormous hulking humanoid machine. Wilmington strongly resembles another enormous hulking machine, the Big Daddy in the video game Bioshock. It’s kind of an obvious rip, and it takes you out of it in a big way.
To the credit of both Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden- writer and artist, respectively- I was able to overlook it and have a lot of good old-fashioned, vaguely Lovecraftian fun. Rennie’s script is really dense, introducing us not only to the mythological elements of the story but two whole teams of characters. Most popular mainstream writers take six months to a year to do this, but we get it in 25 pages. And there are even jokes! I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this one.
Two teams deal with monster invasions: Team Challenger, aquatic, and Team Carnacki, vampires. The book is split into two sections with a short exploration into both groups. I found Team Challenger to have the better story because of the intrigue with the team members. Unfortunately, the heavy dialogue and endless exposition slowed the pace of what could have been a great comic, making it just pretty good. A bit more care in the execution will have this book becoming one of my must reads, but for now, it needs some tweaking to get it right. The artwork, though, looks great and helps compensate for the glut of writing.
Score: 3 Borrow and 2 Buys
Writer: Gordan Rennie
Artist: PJ Holden
Publisher: Renegade Arts Entertainment
Release Date: 10/16/13