Thursday, December 3, 2009

Comic Review: The Unknown HC (Boom Studios)

I was excited to read this because I had heard good things about this series. Plus, Mark Waid is partially responsible for my return to reading comics. When I read Kingdom Come at my now husband’s behest, I remembered what I loved about comics as a kid, and thus began collecting and reading again immediately. So this review is possible because of Mark Waid. It’s only fitting that I review his book in return.

If you’re a fan of comics, you know that Mark Waid has done it all. He introduced the Speed Force and brought Wally West to the forefront. He worked on projects all around the DCU. He’s spent time in the Marvel bullpen, and he’s gained indie cred with various independent publishers. Most recently, he started working with BOOM! Studios, and this is where he’s staying. Lucky for BOOM! Studios.

The title says it all for me. I didn’t know anything about the story going in, but I was hooked from the first page. Cat Allingham seems like she would be at home in a Sin City story or as a member of the BPRD. She’s a snarky, tough girl with a sense of humor who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Her partner Doyle keeps up with her brilliantly, no matter what challenge she throws his way. The villains are proportionately creepy, and though a little heavy-handed, they don’t come off ridiculous or like Scooby Doo villains.

The premise is fairly simple. Cat is an investigator who wants to find out what happens in the afterlife, partly because it’s her job, and partly because she has a terminal brain tumor. Waid establishes her skills as a detective early in the book, so the conclusions she comes to throughout the story are totally believable. Waid blurs the line between what Cat sees and what we are supposed to believe is real, and we can easily tell the difference.

Minck Oosterveer’s art is a great complement to the story. Oosterveer captures the darkness of the settings, from Cat’s bedroom to the dank sanitarium Cat and Doyle wind up in late in the book. The hardcover edition also includes a cover gallery that includes all of the covers from each of the four issues. My favorite was the Paul Pope cover from the first issue.

Gail Simone says it best in her introduction. The best compliment you can give a writer is to say, “I didn’t know you could do that.” I didn’t know Mark Waid could tell a story so successfully with a strong female lead and a believable supernatural premise that was at times funny, suspenseful, and left me wanting more. Luckily, The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh is on its 2nd issue. This would be a great gift for anyone who likes a good supernatural mystery. I would recommend it to my friends who don’t read comics. This just might be the book that converts them.

Stacey Rader
Staff Reviewer

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