For a good few years “dark and gritty” was one of the most-used terms in the entertainment industry. Now though it seems like Zack Snyder is one of the only people keeping it alive, as generally it feels like we’re finally moving away from that phase – at least in comics. Take a look at Marvel’s current line-up and you’ll see what I mean, as characters like Daredevil, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer and the Secret Avengers have all started having a bit more fun in their respective titles. The reason I bring this up is because Department of Monsterology is another comic that seems to be backing this trend. Reading through this book it becomes very clear that what writer, Gordon Rennie wants to do is give his readers one heck of a good time - and he does exactly that. Department of Monsterology is brilliant. The driving force behind this comic-book is the whacky adventures of two teams from the ridiculously titled Department of Cryptozoology, Mythological Studies, Parapsychology and Fortean Phenomena. The aforementioned teams go by the name of Carter and Carnacki and each are filled with larger than life characters. As the two teams go on their separate adventures, we are also treated to a third arc following events as they unfold at the department building, where the mysterious fate of a third team is slowly uncovered.
Juggling this many plot-threads at once is a daunting task and it’s likely that a less capable writer would have fumbled badly, leaving this book a disorganised mess. Fortunately, Rennie proves himself perfectly able when it comes to crafting a story with multiple threads as seen in how this tale flows seamlessly from team-to-team.
Perhaps the only drawback to the book’s ambitious plot is that it means there’s simply not enough space to spotlight each of the book’s unique characters in great detail. This means that some characters such as the mechanical-man known as Harry Wilmington, and the sorceress-in-training Samwi end up getting a lot of development in this book, while other characters have less space and end up more forgettable in the long-run. However this is something that could easily be fixed in future volumes, and I believe that Rennie did the best he could with the space he had here.
One other small criticism I have is that the some of the dialogue early on in this book is a little too expository for my liking. This isn’t a persistent problem as I feel that Rennie seems to get a stronger grasp on his characters as his story progresses, but it does lead to a few awkward lines that could use a little tweaking.
These little things aside, Department of Monsterology is a very strong book. The story has many twists and light-hearted moments which keep things interesting, while the artwork compliments it perfectly. The artist on this book is one P.J. Holden whose style is just perfect for a book of this tone. It’s a great balance between cartoony and realistic, and it’s brought to life with some wonderful colours from Steven Denton. But what I really have to praise this creative team on is there character design. While the two teams at the centre of this story have some well-designed characters, it is in the book’s different monsters that this design really shines through. Being called Department of Monsterology, it was important that this book had some cool creatures to bring to the table, and thankfully it does. The design of these creatures is imaginative and makes this book a joy to look at.
Overall, there’s little for me to criticise about Department of Monsterology. Sure, the dialogue falters a little at first, and it is true that not every character receives the development necessary to keep them alive in our minds long after reading. However, the story that Rennie and his creative team are telling here is imaginative and fun, while the art and character design also keeps things visually very interesting for the duration. After reading this first volume, all I can think about now is how much I want a second to settle the plot threads left hanging in the wake of this book’s exciting ending. So please take a chance on this book, and join the department on a journey you will not regret taking.
Writer: Gordon Rennie Artist: PJ Holden Publisher: Renegade Arts Entertainment Price: $19.99 Release Date: 10/08/14 Format: Print