Never having the opportunity to read a Witchfinder story previously, I was quite excited at checking out a corner of the Mignolaverse that I’ve never ventured. That said I was pretty clueless on what to expect and missed the fact that it starred Edward Grey. I was excited to read this story, but I didn’t want to hype myself up too much in case it was the dark horse (excuse the pun) of the Mignolaverse. The opening of the issue is admittedly slow, but it establishes the era in which the story is taking place. That’s actually very important because it gives context to the dialogue later on in the story. Grey is sulking in a morgue having been called in on a murder. He feels like he’s being treated like a beat detective and it’s clear that in his opinion that’s beneath his skills. The rest of the people in the morgue are working on a dead body of a man who went to inspect the factory that makes an elixir that’s growing in popularity across England. The company Poole has applied for a Royal Warrant which would basically be the royal seal of approval and sky-rocket their sales, but even though the Queen is drinking the stuff they don’t just hand out the seal without inspection.
Of course there’s foul play on the dead inspector, but the clues presented are confusing and don’t match up with one another. Also they’ve found unusual and unidentifiable animalcules in the elixir. Grey finally throws a fit and asks what he’s supposed to be doing about an average murder. They tell him that he’s heading to the factory to inspect it and solve the murder to which he begrudgingly accepts the task for.
Grey arrives to the town of Hallam and is greeted by a manager that works at Poole and the Constable. Now here’s where it’s important to remember the era and also the setting. It’s England so everyone is annoyingly polite when they want to be anything but. Grey is given an awkward tour and the entire time you can pretty much tell there’s something not right about the town and these two men. Even stranger when they arrive at the hotel in which the dead man’s body was found, the owner cleaned up the room and Grey comments that they must have solved the case if they already tidy up the room. Again, nothing seems right about this place especially since the town’s founder and elixir creator destroyed what were once marshlands because his son died in them.
That cracked me up, but people’s motivations have been stranger. Still, destroying a marshland in vengeance for what could just be bad parenting is funny to me.
Overall I enjoyed this story. You can tell that it’s not Mignola writing it, but there’s still a vibe to it. The characters are chattier and there’s more exposition be it intentional for their creepiness of the story. I can see some people not grasping the era and wondering why they’re even bother with something labelled as an elixir which are historically snake oil B.S., but I enjoyed Grey. His “sunny” disposition was enjoyable and a change of pace for the Mignolaverse. Whereas everyone else has baggage or some destiny they have to save or stop, Grey just seemed annoyed that he had to deal with anyone.
What keeps this book feeling the most like a Mignolaverse title is artist Tyler Crook, a regular on B.P.R.D. and the M-verse in general. Crook and colorist Dave Stewart of course make the book look at home. So much so that the unfamiliar may not even realize that it’s not Mignola and one of his normal co-plotters working on the series. Crook gives the entire issue a creepy vibe. When Grey hits the town of Hallam it has that creepy small town vibe and what makes it worse is the era it’s set in. Nothing action wise happens in those scenes, but it’s unnerving all the same.
I was pleasantly surprised by this issue and will be finishing the mini for sure. It’s at home with the rest of the Hellboy gang, but it’s different enough that it doesn’t come across as more B.P.R.D. Even if you’re not a Mignolaverse reader and you just like creepy mysteries that involve the supernatural, I would highly recommend this issue. To answer my question about this series being a dark horse, the answers is neigh (another pun, I know its nay).
Writers: Kim Newman and Maura McHugh Artist: Tyler Crook Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 6/18/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital