"Doc Unknown: Volume 2 – Winter of the Damned & Other Tales" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Believe In Comics
Written by Fabian Rangel Jr and Ryan Cody
Illustrated by Ryan Cody, Phil Sloan, Jim McMunn, and John Broglia
2014, 104 Pages
The criminal element of Gate City has something more to fear than the police when Doc Unknown is on the case. Bursting onto the scene on his skull-emblazoned motorcycle, he's ready to punch evil right in the mouth. This makes him rather busy as there seems to be a lot of that going around town. The second volume of Doc Unknown, Winter of the Damned & Other Tales, expands a bit on the adventures of the pulp hero, dealing with ghosts, strange fish-like creatures, lizard people and more, proving that Gate City is just as weird as Gotham.
Unlike Volume 1, this book doesn't feature an overall narrative. It's more of a collection of one-shots and short stories with writer / creator Fabian Rangel Jr collaborating with some new artists in addition to series regular Ryan Cody. With the exception of Winter of the Damned, each story is pretty quick, offering a snapshot of another dark corner of the city. This also expands the mythos of Doc Unknown with stories like Centuries, written and illustrated by Cody, that show the legacy that the character leaves behind, inspiring future vigilantes years from now with a Batman Beyond-esque setting.
Each story is filled with pulp style adventure mixed with the supernatural. As with the previous volume, there's a heavy influence from Batman: The Animated Series. If you're a fan of that show, you're going to love Doc Unknown. It has a similar tone and style, telling a great comic book story while providing a level handed sense of humanity to the villains. They're not just monsters. They're often individuals faced with tragedy, struggling to get by in life with the bad hand they've been dealt.
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Cody's artwork is solid throughout the book. I'm not sure what time period Doc Unknown is set in, but Cody makes me feel nostalgic for it, like The Rocketeer would. There's a simplicity to the design of the character and the city that works very well. You don't need huge muscles and belts with bulging pouches to make a cool super hero. Sometimes you just need a nice dark jacket and a pair of awesome shades. A hidden blade or two doesn't hurt either.
This volume also shows us a bit of the “Unknown Cave” (not the actual name). It's where Doc Unknown hangs his hat and it's like a poor man's Batcave, deep in the sewers below Gate City. Here is where our hero keeps his gadgets, motorcycles, and trophies. He even has a big dinosaur skull, almost like a big nod to Batman's T-Rex.
Doc Unknown: Volume 2 is more of an anthology, collecting a variety of adventures of the title character in one place. There are some slight ties to the first volume, but for the most part, this is a standalone book that you can jump into without having read anything else. Fans of pulp or noir stories with a bit of the supernatural mixed in will find a lot to enjoy here.