Pulp Action Or History Lesson – Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man #1 Review

GameStop, Inc.

MerrickA few weeks back I interviewed writer Tom Ward about his Victorian era horror/adventure comic, Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man, and the Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of the series. Along with the interview, he made the first issue free digitally to our readers. I’ve had the chance to read it, and it was even cooler than I expected!

Tom mixes historical accuracy and pulp action seamlessly, creating a story, and a world, that is as exciting as it is interesting. For a first time comic author, Tom shows a depth not seen in many long time pros work, deftly interweaving many story threads that left me, as a reader, wanting more.

The tale moves along at a brisk speed, jumping backwards and forwards in time, telling multiple sides of Joseph Merrick’s story, but never getting confusing. The dialogue was a bit choppy in parts, but on the whole Ward has an ear for it. His characterization is spot on, with each player having a unique voice. And man, does he know how to write a cliffhanger!

Ward has clearly done his research into the life and times of Joseph Merrick, but the story is never weighted down by it. The world these characters inhabit, through dialogue and way of dress, is extremely period accurate. He easily straddles the line between historical fact, folklore, mystery, and superheroic conventions much in the way Mike Mignola does with Hellboy, a clear influence on the book.

Luke Parker’s artwork is a perfect match for Tom Ward’s story, his use of thick black lines and occult imagery giving the book a proper horror atmosphere. He nails the period look too, his costuming and architecture feel very old world and authentic. The way he moves from talking heads to action sequences seamlessly keeps the story moving. His pages are dynamic, and full of action, with some interesting flairs here and there keeping things interesting.

All in all, Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man’s first issue makes a strong debut, and definitely has me intrigued, with Ward’s writing and Parker’s artwork creating a world that is as beautiful as it is ugly, hopefully giving this tragic man a proper, if quite fictionalized, victorious end. This is revisionist history at its finest, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

The first issue is free, and there is a Kickstarter campaign to fund the rest of the series. If you like issue one, go throw them a couple bucks to make the rest available.

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