When I reviewed issue one of the latest Department of Monsterology series, Sabbaticals, back in October, I said picking up issue 2 was a must. Now that series has run its course, the full story has been collected into one volume. Will this be a must-buy addition to any collector’s library? Let’s find out!
The book is a good size, running to 130 pages, and it begins with a wonderfully in-character summary of the situation so far. This is great not only for returning readers who need a reminder of what’s happened so far but it also means newcomers don’t have to read through previous stories (although they probably will – the first trade paperback was amazing) to get the gist of what’s going on.
I’ve already covered the first section of this book in my review of issue one, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say it’s a brilliant introduction that gets the reader up-to-speed quickly and with a nice bit of humour involved as well. PJ Holden’s artwork beautifully complements Gordon Rennie’s script and Steven Denton’s colours are an absolute delight.
I levelled a criticism at issue one due to the darkness of the logos used to introduce each team. They were black on dark backgrounds, which made them difficult to read. Now those logos are all white; which makes them stand out perfectly. It’s a small change but it’s a very welcome one. Thanks, guys!
The artwork continues to impress as we go through the book, with a particularly gruesome display of hideous Lovecraftian monstrosity turning up on page 41. I have to admit that this page took me out of the story, not because it seemed out of place but because I simply had to stop and admire just how hideous a creature PJ Holden had managed to conjure up here. It’s awful! You’ll feel it as much as view it. I actually shuddered.
Steve Denton’s colours are suitably muted where necessary, giving the story a kind of cold, earthy quality to it that helps to enhance the feel of the creepiness and underlying wrongness of the creatures involved. Where a technicolour palette would have been out of place the colours are cold and moody. Where the characters are in warmer climates,such as at the South American Nazi base, the palette is bright, warm, even glowing. It all feels right and it enhances the artwork; making it more real. Denton and Holden work really well together, that much is obvious.
So what about the script? Well I’m pleased to say that Gordon Rennie has stayed true to form. He’s clearly put a lot – and I do mean a lot – of research into the creatures and the mythology he is playing off for this one. There are subtle references to the early days of Weird Tales, where writers like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E Howard et al got their writing break.
I particularly liked the throwaway joke referencing Frank Lloyd Wright, Weird Tales‘ editor during Lovecraft’s time, in Chapter Two but that’s not the end of it. Rennie knows when to be funny, when to create tension and how to keep the reader hooked. His writing here is as good, if not better, than his work with Monsterology 101, the previous collection.
All in all, this is a superb collection fitting excellent writing with top-notch art. There’s something here for pretty much everyone: action, sci-fi, pulp fiction Nazi shenanigans, everything! It’s a brilliant story and it helps to flesh out the characters introduced in the earlier trades, which is good to see.
The final pages, where Professor Booker returns, not only round out the framing device for this five-part storyline very well but they will also make you want to pick up the next story, too. With all the characters coming together for one mission, that looks like something you can’t miss!
The Department of Monsterology: Sabbaticals collection is released on 25 November. It’s available from the Renegade Arts Entertainment website, and all good comic stockists.