Weird Detective: The Stars Are Wrong (Dark Horse)

Fred Van Lente and Guiu Vilanova offer up a Lovecraftian murder mystery that pays off fully in collected form.

152 pgs., color; $17.99

(W: Fred Van Lente; A: Guiu Vilanova)

Reviewing serial publications presents a challenge, because you must give your opinion on whatever part of a planned series has been released, even though each part is necessarily incomplete by itself. In the first few issues of a new comic, for instance, by necessity much time and space must be devoted to introducing the principal characters and describing the world in which the story takes place, which leaves less room to develop the story itself. I had this problem with issues 1 and 2 of Weird Detective (short version: cool idea, but where’s the story?) but now that the whole first run is available, I can say that all that world-building did pay off.

The central character in Weird Detective is Sebastian Greene, who looks like an ordinary white dude but is really a Lovecraftian creature with 17 senses, which he puts to use solving crimes for the New York City Police Department. They particularly need him at the moment because the city has been hit with a series of horrifying crimes that shock even hardened city cops. In the first, the shell of a young woman is discovered at the bottom of a swimming pool, and by “shell” I mean her skin and clothing only, no innards. As Sebastian’s partner Sana notes, the corpse looks like a juice box after someone sucked it dry until it imploded. Isn’t that a pleasant thought?

Several more sucked-dry bodies turn up, as do ordinary horrors of life (corrupt policemen, a pervy janitor that secretly films kids taking showers). Rest assured, by the end of the series, we get the complete version not only of Sebastian’s story but also of Sana’s, in the process learning a use for saltines that I bet you never imagined. The case of the juice box killer is also resolved, but that doesn’t mean you should feel safe, just lucky so far. Lovecraft liked to put his monsters in natural shelters like caves and icebergs, but apparently they thrive in man-made structures as well. And goodness knows the extensive underground infrastructure of New York City offers plenty of residential opportunities for them, while the city is packed with puny humans upon which they may feed.

Guiu Vilanova’s art is a perfect match to Fred Van Lente’s story, mixing detailed, realistic city scenes with imaginative portrayals of tentacled monsters that will please any fan of Lovecraft. Mauricio Wallace’s coloring is stylish and sets the appropriate tone for each scene (mostly dark, given the story, but there are happy scenes which use a much lighter palette as well).

There’s so much to enjoy about Weird Detective that I can’t cram it all in this review, so here are my top five reasons this series is awesome:

  1. A smart aleck talking cat, because talking cats make everything better (if you need more evidence, consider Joann Sfar’s series The Rabbi’s Cat);
  2. Lots of NYC-specific detail, from the city skyline to swimming pools the size of a football fields (and in which no one swims—the idea is to splash around and cool off, not do laps);
  3. The Lovecraftian vibe—you may think you know the world in which you live, but just beneath the surface lurk horrors that you could never imagine;
  4. Sebastian’s charming habit of not getting it quite right in the human world, like the characters on Third Rock from the Sun;
  5. Sana being a lesbian in a committed relationship, with a child, which is a welcome change from the lone wolf/widow/otherwise unmarried stereotype of female detectives (Modesty Blaise, Emma Peel, Alice Hotwire, etc.).

You can see a preview of Weird Detective: The Stars Are Wrong here. | Sarah Boslaugh

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