"Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Kim Newman and Maura McHugh
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
2014, 24 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on July 16th, 2014
While investigating the mysterious death of a local man, Sir Edward Grey is attacked by giant eels. Just another day in the life of the Witchfinder in the late 1800s. This attack has renewed Grey's interest in the case, so he increasing his search for answers. It seems that the man was drowned with Poole's Elixir, a potent cure-all made in the town of Hallam, Somerset. Grey gets a tour of the factory and meets some of the odd characters that help make this strange medicine that is clearly not regulated by any sort of FDA.
The beauty of Witchfinder (and most of Mike Mignola's creations) is the subtle creepiness that slowly seeps into each story. On the surface, Hallam seems like a normal, albeit uncultured town. As Grey meets more of the townsfolk and starts to learn more about his case, some horrors begin to come to light. These begin with glances from some of the workers, showing something ominous lurking behind dark eyes. The employees seem fearful of the new boss and they're hesitant to give any information to Grey.
There is some black magic at work with the eels of “Unland.” Someone is commanding them and has power over the swamp, calling forth all kinds of creepy crawlies. This evil gets just two pages in this issue but it's just enough to show some real danger, as well as the villain's abilities.
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Grey himself can be a bit stuffy at times, but that would stand to reason given the historical setting and background of the character. His time in the States and further exposure to the supernatural has begun to change him. One of the interesting parts of Witchfinder is that it's set entirely in the past, filling in some gaps of Grey's life. It's been established that he eventually disappears after relocating to America to investigate the Heliopic Brotherhood in Chicago. Everything that he's doing now will lead to this sooner or later, so you can read into each event, however large or small, that occurs in his life. His adventure in Hallum may set him on the course for Chicago down the line.
Tyler Crook is no stranger to the Mignolaverse and he's a welcome addition to Witchfinder. Those subtleties are brought out with perfection in Crook's artwork. Similar to Mignola himself, there are often panels with little to no dialogue. More can be said with a worker's glance or a worried expression. The mind fills in everything else.
Crook brings in the horror in a big way with this issue. While the giant eels are scary on their own, what really stands out is the disturbing death of one of the Hallam residents. The creatures are used in a very unsettling manner (No, they're not in his butt. Get your mind out of the gutter.) that has put me off of earthworms, spaghetti, and anything else even shaped like an eel.
Sir Edward Grey is his own Sherlock Holmes and Watson, using his powers of deduction to track down the squirming evil at work in Hallam. Although he's facing this darkness alone, he does so with bravery and determination. It's no wonder that he exists in the same world as Hellboy, as he could easily stand next to Red in the battle against things that go bump in the night.