Nov 09 $3.99
Story: Steve Niles
Art: Bernie Wrightson
Colours: Tom Smith
Try as he may, Steve Niles has never quite outdone 30 Days of Night. That title brought him such attention; party because it was good, but largely because it ran on such a clever and instantly “gettable” premise. Niles latest series for IDW isn’t quite as remarkable, but right away it establishes an identity for itself. Unfortunately, that identity is of another comic series entirely.
The worst criticism anyone could currently throw at The Ghoul is that it’s than a little derivative. The Ghoul himself is a blend of the Hulk’s Joe Fixit incarnation and Hellboy; a colossal, ashen FBI agent with a heart of gold. His role, personality and history practically mirror Mignola’s horned agent; he even wears a trenchcoat, for crying out loud! That said, the Los Angeles backdrop, frequent references to old movies, Bernie Wrightson’s (Swamp Thing) EC-styled art and a crime case concerning an immortal silent-era actress all lend the book a nostalgic atmosphere that I thoroughly appreciated.
The book’s format also leaves a lot to be desired. There are only 16 pages of comic here, with a 5-page prose backup story, told by the Ghoul himself, which hints at the title character’s origins. Many comic writers struggle with these literary sections, but Niles manages the hard-boiled style pretty well. It’s only during this part of the issue, and an intriguingly anachronistic dream sequence, that the series reveals any true potential.
But this is a comic book, and for the backup prose to prove more interesting than the main story is never a good sign; and Niles’ use of a narrator to disclose information that his two leads easily could further robs the book of any real personality. While The Ghoul isn’t a terrible book, it desperately needs to distinguish itself from being another Hellboy clone by next issue.