In principle I ought to love this comic; Edgar Allan Poe in a supernatural crime thrilled in 1840's Baltimore? That should be right in my wheelhouse; I'm an English teacher, Baltimore is my hometown, I have a high regard for Poe as a poet and critic, and I love supernatural crime thrillers, such as Hellboy and the B.R.P.D. or Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels.
But somehow, this TPB collection from Boom! Studios just falls a little flat. It's good, it's readable, it's entertaining, but it never quite manages to live up to its premise, and I think the reason is simple; it's a hodge-podge. Edgar Allan Poe as detective? Sure, even with the supernatural elements. The problem is that it reads as though the authors decided to include every one of Poe's best known stories and poems into one four-issue comic series. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, the Cask of Amontillado, The Raven, Annabel Lee...all of them, and more, make it in. It's too many in too short a space; the idea of Poe as a supernatural detective is interesting enough to support more than one series, and by cramming so many of the best known works into one story does not serve the best interest of that idea. It becomes cluttered.
I must point out something in the book's favor; it makes no references to Poe being any kind of an opium addict, which he was not, despite what poorly researched 8th grade literature textbooks and uneducated Poe fans will tell you. It does place him in a mental hospital, which is equally as problematic, but then, it is a comic book, not a biography. Still, I must protest any promulgation of the nonsense that Poe was some kind of lunatic. In all honesty, the book doesn't go too far in that direction. It generally depicts Poe as a man of incredible imagination, superstition, and knowledge. Superstition I can handle, and it is an amusing character trait as he instructs other characters what to do or not to do at any given moment.
The art of this book does not always thrill. At times, Poe's face is in a very recognizable way; at other times, the angle or proportions seem odd. The color palette is very muted, which provides wonderful contrast in the few moments when it suddenly gets very colorful. A larger problem is the backgrounds, or lack of them. Given a backdrop of 1840's Baltimore, I had hoped to see panels backed with interesting cityscape and the thriving Baltimore Harbor. Instead, for the most part, we get heavily inked brown soup.
Is Poe worth your time? If you are a truly devoted fan of Poe, of supernatural crime thriller, or both, perhaps, yes. The Poe character that is created here is interesting, historical liberties aside. The art is at times intriguing and at others forgettable, but I couldn't say it detracts from the better parts of the book. Ultimately it's a neat idea that hits an occasional high note, but never quite lives up to its promise.