Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman #5

After the Indian fever dream prequel Treves A Restless Night, writer Tom Ward and artist Luke Parker are back on the streets of Victorian London as Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman returns for a new dose of high pulp adventuring featuring demonic playing cards and the worlds first super villain.

Publisher: Merrick
Writer: Tom Ward
Artist: Luke Parker
Price: £1.49 from ComiXology

The plot sees Merrick’s pal Treves and his buddy Arthur Conan Doyle attempting to recover a set of magical playing cards from the tomb of William McKenzie – a former member of their secret lodge. Treves believe the cards have the ability to save his soul from damnation which is at risk as he is being forced to perform a particularly nasty piece of dark magic intended to replicate the super tough skin of Merrick. But everyone they send in to recover the cards ends up going mad, so who better to send in to get these cards than the Elephantman himself. But along the way they must first encounter the fiendish Springheeled Jack!

After the origin focused first arc of Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman, this new issue feels much more like the kind of book we hoped it would become. There’s much more focus on action and adventure, with Merrick feeling more like his own person rather than a historical character whose story is being adapted into a comic. And although the story is still very Merrick-centric There is more focus on Treves and Doyle. Which as well as bringing in some of the darker more fantastical elements also broadens the depth of the tale making it more than just a one trick show

We know its a lazy comparison, but this new story feels much more Hellboy like (and we mean that as the highest compliment) as Merrick is starting to become an enigmatic hero, much in the same vein as Big Red. But also because Ward and Parker are embracing the more pulpy action-packed and heroic elements that we crave from a comic book hero – and get from the Mignola-verse. (Especially in the scenes like the interactions with Jack and also a scene in a back alley when he is wearing a mask and breaking up a robbery.)

Parker’s art continues to excel. His use of light and shadows is excellent and he has a real confidence in his work. However it is the colouring which is perhaps the stand out – whether it is the blues of the London streets, the oranges of Jack or the greens of the tomb. However perhaps the most interesting section of this issue has to be the origin of the gamblers cards which is told in a kind of etching/manuscript style which gives the whole thing a really original and unexpected change of pace.

With a great cliffhanger, which feels like something out of a classic Fantastic Four story, this has to be the most complete and enjoyable Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman yet. It serves as both a brilliant continuation of one of our favourite small press stories, but also a fantastic jumping on point for new readers. So be sure to discover the world of Merrick now, because it definitely lived up to its sensational monicker.