Looking at the cover you’re probably thinking “damn I didn’t know there was a new Mignola book?” Well this isn’t a Mignola book, but damn if it’s not close. Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman is the same vein as Mignola’s books, but by no means is it a carbon copy. The story follows Joseph Merrick aka the Elephantman. When we first meet him he’s been left beaten and bloodied on the streets of London, 1886. A doctor is called to tend him after his card was found in Merrick’s pocket. We come to learn that the card was from a year earlier in which Merrick was a part of a traveling freak show.
Dr. Treves introduces himself to the owner of the freak show and expresses interest in studying Merrick. The owner, Tom Norman, tells him that he doesn’t own Merrick, but that he’ll ask him. From there Treves studies and experiments on Merrick making him very uncomfortable; Merrick draws the line when Treves tries to shoot him in front of colleagues to demonstrate the thickness of his skin. This breaks their union leaving us to wonder what’s changed about Treves and what’s happened to Merrick in the year they’ve been apart?
The heart of the story is revenge, but we only know the villain of Merrick’s tale via his exposition. We’ve yet to meet the man or really learn the truth behind what happened to Merrick to leave him beaten up the way he was. It must be something spectacular considering how tough his skin is, but we’ll have to wait and see in the next issue.
The story is interesting enough; being set in 1880’s in London means that we have our classic clothes, cobble stone streets and ignorance of the era, making it a perfect backdrop for the story. What’s missing is the characters development. The story is about Merrick, but it comes across as other people remember or talking about him more than us following his story. You’re never really given any sense of what type of person Merrick is other than his outward appearance. The other characters we meet come and go in a flash leaving the reader with only the vaguest of information.
Merrick and Treves relationship didn’t make much sense; they’ve only been apart for a year and even then they didn’t exactly have a friendship. They’re working relationship of subject and examiner is never detailed to us in length so it comes across as a very short amount of time. The writing and narrative is strong and well-plotted, but the characters need to be fleshed out more.
Again, looking at the art you’ll swear that you’re looking at a Mignola book. The usage of shadows and thick line work are but one of the first things you’ll notice. Then there’s the character designs and coloring which again gives it that style, but also sets the tone for the world the story is set in. I thought the art was killer and frankly it was nice to see someone influenced by Mignola working on a book outside of his universe.
I would say this is a mood book and though I hate to compare or mention the Mignolaverse over and over, Merrick perfectly fits in with that world and genre. That being said if you’re in the mood for a series like that then Merrick is a great choice. If that’s never been your cup of tea, then I don’t see Merrick winning you over.
Writer: Tom Ward Artist: Luke Parker Price: Currently free on their Facebook page.