"Tales of Mr. Rhee: Volume 1 – Procreation (of the Wicked)" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Devil's Due Entertainment
Written by Dirk Manning
Illustrated by Joshua Ross
2013, 144 Pages
Graphic Novel released on March 26th, 2014
Life isn't easy for Mr. Rhee. He's a supernatural investigator, cleaning up the messes left after armageddon brought all kinds of monsters and other nasties through to our world. He works on a referral basis, which is usually fine until he comes face to face with the demon that ruined his life in the first place. Now he has to figure out a way to stop it once and for all, which is easier said than done.
The first volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee, entitled Procreation (of the Wicked), begins with a typical day in the life of the character. He's called in to help some poor soul that finds himself dealing with a paranormal being. If it slithers or goes bump in the night, Mr. Rhee's your guy. These first few chapters feel like episodes of Supernatural, with Mr. Rhee riding into town, kicking some ass, and going on his way.
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Writer / creator Dirk Manning begins to sprinkle in bits and pieces of Mr. Rhee's past while tying it back to the current story. It feels very organic so it's not like you're sitting through pages of exposition as the character is having a flashback. This began as a webcomic, as did Manning's previous work, Nightmare World. He has a talent for pacing the story, making each page important. Everything serves a purpose in telling the overall plot. This happens in such a subtle way that all of a sudden you'll find yourself at the end of the book and everything just sort of clicks together. It's as if you were putting together a big puzzle but didn't know what it was until the last piece fell into place. It also makes you want to go back and re-read the whole thing from the beginning, looking out for other details you might have missed the first time around.
Speaking of Nightmare World, Mr. Rhee actually lives in the same universe. Fans will notice characters and nods to other stories from that comic spread out throughout this volume. You don't have to have read Nightmare World to enjoy Tales of Mr. Rhee, but you'll get a lot more out of the book if you did.
Mr. Rhee (with a name that I'm embarrassed to say I didn't fully get until halfway through the comic) deals with some pretty crazy stuff. There are some run of the mill demons and vampires, but he gets into zombie necrophiliacs, ghosts, and even the Antichrist. He doesn't confront all of these by going for the jugular. He's not Buffy. He doesn't just punch his problems in the mouth. Instead, he looks at all angles and then makes the best decision he can based on what he thinks is right. This might not serve the person that called him in the first place.
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Joshua Ross is along for the artwork for Tales of Mr. Rhee. He and Manning had previously collaborated on several Nightmare World stories, and it's clear that they work well together. There is an unmistakable toughness to Mr. Rhee's design. You can tell that he's been put through the wringer a few times. He's unshaven. His clothes look beat up, as if they haven't been washed in days. He has an almost permanent look of suspicion on his face. It's like he's your basic private detective from the likes of Hammett and Marlow, only Mr. Rhee can perform magic spells and fight a cthuloid, which is something that Sam Spade sure as hell never did.
Ross' monsters are downright terrifying. There's a human quality to most of them, as they are victims of possession or some bad spell. Seeing a horrific beast burst from the body of an innocent young woman is enough to send a chill up your spine. It makes you think that it could happen to anyone at any time.
The Tales of Mr. Rhee is a great introduction to a pretty badass character. It's easy to get wrapped up in this world and Mr. Rhee's place in it. Sure, it's dark and full of all kinds of scary things, but he's faced this stuff for most of his life and he's not about to stop any time soon. He'll stare down any evil that comes his way.