For their follow up to last year’s excellent new issues of Merrick The Sensational Elephantman, writer Tom Ward and artist Luke Parker have teamed up with Dr Crowe creator Corey Friya to create an awesome Victorian crossover. With both characters have strong steam punk and golden age hero roots, it’s a perfect combination and has that classic Marvel team-up feel to it.
Publisher: Merrick Comic
Writer: Tom Ward, Corey Friya
Artist: Luke Parker, Micah Meyers (Letters)
Price: £3.50 from merrickcomic.com
The story sees Merrick and Crowe cross paths while trying to solve the murder of a police offer and rescue some children from a mysterious abductor, who turns out to be a demonic owl. After some inevitable initial confusion and conflict between Merrick and Crowe, they ultimately team up to save the day.
As you can tell from this synopsis, it’s a fairly conventional superhero plot. And although it feels a little bit forced at time, spending a bit too long introducing the protagonists etc., that is ok, because It’s adhering to the genre tropes of a superhero crossover. At a time when a lot of mainstream superhero books are afraid of using those tropes, or are too busy trying to reinvent the wheel with every issue, this makes it feel instantly familiar and a lot of fun (and after all, that’s what tropes are for.)
As with the last two issues of Merrick, Ward is now focusing on the Elephantman as a pulp hero/ detective and not just someone trying to find answers about his past. By breaking away from the origin mythos, it is a much more enjoyable book as a result. There are still mentions of those early issues and links to Treves and co, but the focus now is mainly on Merrick, even in this crossover context. This renewed focus and pulpy style is definitely helping it evolve into the kind of book you could see it would become when you read those early issues and is now definitely fulfilling that early potential.
The issue is given a real sense of polish by Parker’s amazing art. He is on superb form with his shadowy and angular style, that reminded us a lot of Gotham By Gaslight in this edition. From the cover which feels like a silver age Kirby homage, via some stunning geometric design – the demonic owl is especially eye-catching – and some muted and beautiful colouring it is the total package. He also manages to integrate Crowe into the Merrick world seamlessly, without either feeling out of place and making both characters feel as if they belong together. Looking back at the earlier Merrick books you can see Parker’s art has lost that tentativeness to it and has a real confidence now which makes the whole thing feel very accomplished.
If you are a fan of Crowe or Merrick and not the other, then this is a perfect introduction to these great small press characters. And it’s also an ideal jumping on point for new readers too. However if, like us, you are a fan of both then this will not disappoint, and continues a fantastic run which just sees Merrick’s adventures get better and better. The only downside is having to wait for another instalment as this will only make you eager for more adventures from both!