Review: Reanimator vol. 1

So I’m going to come clean here. While I have read a decent amount of Lovecraft, I have not read any of the Herbert West stories. It probably was because when I discovered Lovecraft, I was a sophomore in high school and I had just finished reading Frankenstein, so the idea of another reanimating mad scientist just didn’t do it for me. However, I have seen the movie, and it holds a very special place in my heart as one of my favorite B movies. So given my lack exposure, you can understand my surprise in finding out that Dynamite not only published stories about Dr. West, but they also seemed to give the writers one order, “RUN WITH IT.” From what I’ve read about the previous issues in the introduction of this collection, this series is one of the tamer Reanimator stories. There is no time travel and way less magic than some of the earlier issues, but there is still plenty of weird to go around. Part mystery, part crime story, and part horror tale this arc is a B movie in comic book form. In some cases this is good, in others, it can be a weakness, but I feel like if you’re into Dr. West, you’ll be into this collection. ReanmiatorTP-CovI’m going to switch things up and talk about the bonus content for this collection first. If any of you have read my previous reviews, you know I’m a sucker for bonus content. Essays, anecdotes, sketch pages, I love all of it. For me, it’s what makes a collection more than just four issues bound together. As I said earlier, right at the beginning Oni Press has provided a nice summary of Dr. West’s history in the Dynamite universe. It is as entertaining as it is informative providing the reader with a breakdown of all the major events in his life in a tone that matches that of the series. In addition to this, there is also a “References and Commentary” section where writer Keith Davidson takes you through key pages and panels. He does this for each issue in the collection, and you really get to dig into the nitty gritty details of not only Lovecraft lore, but Dynamite continuity as well. I also have to say that the cover gallery and sketch pages have some great work in them. Francesco Francavilla is amazing, but Andrew Magnum and Jae Lee add some great pieces as well. This is one of the best collections I’ve read in my time at Comic Bastards in terms of additional material. But extra material a great comic does not make, lets move onto the meat or, more appropriately, the flesh of the book.

Set in New Orleans, these issues make a number of changes to the character’s story. For one, he is not the point of view or the protagonist of this story; that honor falls to Susan Greene. A chemist and biologist by trade, she joins forces with Dr. West after the violent death of her boyfriend, Nathan. Her story takes the form of the detective’s mystery when she discovers her new partner, the gang he does business with, and the death of her boyfriend all are connected. Her agency makes her an excellent point of view character and her mystery is one-half of the narrative in the arc. The second part of the narrative focuses on Dr. West and a cult named the Eldritch Krewe, Cthulhu cultists who use a drug manufactured by the west to expand their minds to connect with the universe. Both plotlines move parallel to each other until a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

Randy Valiente does solid work here. It isn’t the flashiest or most polished work you’ll see on the shelves, and it is very difficult to follow a Francavilla cover, but Valiente does an excellent job with monsters, action, and dramatic expressions which is really the core of the story here. The style was also clearly influenced by the stories Dr. West has been featured in, namely the Army of Darkness series Dynamite has put out. Goofy and full of splatter, the art reflects the tone of the book perfectly.

The only thing which keeps this book from being a must buy this week is that the plot is really dependent upon the reader knowing what has happened in Dr. West’s past. This is a niche book, specifically for fans of Herbert West in the Dynamite universe. There are also some references to lesser-known elder gods in Lovecraftian lore. While Cthulhu may have made his way into the mainstream, some other gods have yet to branch out. That being said, if you’re into anything Lovecraft related and willing to try a new take on an old character, do yourself a favor and buy this book.

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Reanimator vol. 1 Writer: Keith Davidson Artist: Randy Valiente Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $17.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital