By Oliver Gerlach
Monster Mansion by Dan Wolff is a lot of fun. A classic Hammer horror movie in comic form, it wears its B-movie influences proudly on its sleeve and has a great time with them. I can’t quite tell if it’s meant to be a horror story by modern standards, but it fits that classic horror movie vibe perfectly.
The film influence is clearly visible from the very start; the covers to the two issues made available for review are both riffing on old movie posters in charmingly ridiculous ways. Not only are the images and text composed to mimic that old style, but the colors also fit the eyewateringly garish look of the posters in question. It’s a nice touch that sets the tone for the book, despite the fact that the interiors look nothing like the covers. I don’t know what sort of quality of paper the physical editions for this series are printed on, but I hope it’s a rough, newsprint-style paper; this feels like a book that wants to go all in on the style and aesthetics.
To begin with, I didn’t love Wolff’s figure drawing, but after a few pages I realised that it was a very intentional stylistic choice, and grew to love it. These characters are ugly in all of the right ways, and it really helps to sell the classic horror movie style. This atmosphere is emphasised by the very muted colour palette of primarily browns and grey-greens. Blood, however, is rendered in a striking shade of lurid pink, which really stands out against the drab colours of the rest of the book. There’s one action sequence in #2 that’s delivered entirely in black, white, and pink, and it’s exceptionally impactful and effective.
The plot is a fairly straightforward construction about a man who goes to stay in a small town and discovers sinister monstrous goings on, but it’s well delivered and well paced (at least over the first two issues). Everything here is built around classic horror tropes, exemplified by how many of the characters are named for old Hammer actors, and it manages to riff on a huge number of movies at the same time.
The lettering contributes further to this atmosphere, with borderless balloons built entirely from straight lines. It’s a good look that fits very well with the simple, flat colours and weird figures. There are a number of points where a proofreader would have been beneficial, but nothing too major; what’s more important is that the letters look good and fit the style well.
Overall, then, this is a really effective story that riffs on a well-known subgenre very successfully and has a lot of fun while doing so. It’s a good concept executed well, and some of the stylistic touches are truly inspired.
Mister Strange’s Monster Mansion #1-2
Writer/Artist: Dan Wolff
Publisher: Panel Pirates