Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Department of Monsterology Volume 2: Sabbaticals by Travelling Man

sabbaticalsWritten by Gordon Rennie

Art by PJ Holden

Colours by Steve Denton

Letters by Jim Campbell

Published by Renegade Arts Entertainment

£13.99

Available from Renegade Arts and Comixology

 

After the disastrous events of the last volume, the Department of Monsterology are all recuperating by throwing themselves into their work. Professor Jang takes Samwi to Tibet to learn about her true nature, Michael Calvary leads Team Challenger to a Scottish haunted house that shouldn’t exist anymore while Team Carnacki and their grad students encounter a forgotten branch of science that has no intention of staying that way. And elsewhere, Professor Tovar comes to terms with what he is, and what he may become…

 

Welcome to one of my favourite books. Department of Monsterology takes the ‘action and learning things!’ sub-genre that includes everything from Stargate Atlantis to Atomic Robot and turns it into the best TV show not yet made. It’s energetic, smart and immensely fun storytelling and this volume is a perfect jumping on point.

Rennie’s script combines three main plots and two sub plots to create a detailed map of the world the series takes place in. Each one includes classic moments of pulp action but each one is also remarkably grounded and human. Tovar’s sub plot is a great example of why this book works so well; it’s both ghastly body horror and an increasingly tragic look at a man pushed way too far. Likewise Jang and Samwi’s story is both a punch up with a mountain-based monster and a touching look at what happens when you realize your child is growing up. Team Challenger’s plot is the one that stays with you though, detailing a very personal version of Hell and a very different take on the ghosts that haunt us.

Which isn’t to say this is grim stuff, it really isn’t. Team Carnacki’s plot in particular is exuberant mad science action that involves robot punching and extensive running away from things that explode. But even there it’s the characters that and how much they care about each other that you remember. This isn’t a utopian world by any means and none of these people back down from a fight but it is awfully nice to see characters understand a problem to death instead of pummel it.

Also, this book is gorgeous. Denton’s colour work takes great care to differentiate between the environments and really emphasizes the scale and cinematic tone of the book. Campbell’s letter work is always impressive but he’s especially good here too. This is a huge cast and one peppered with different speech patterns. Campbell not only gives them all the room they need but helps make those speech patterns exactly what they need to be; indicators of character and subtle, vital parts of the story.

Holden is one of the best artists in the industry and here he shows just why. Every character is distinct and subtle, every action beat is perfectly realized. Each moment is exactly the right pace, nothing gets lost and the sheer, wonderful mad spectacle of what the department does is on every page. Its amazing work that combines with the amazing work everyone else does, much like the characters they’re showing us.

This is a joy to read. Pulpy but never arch, humane but never grim it’s another brilliant look at the lives of the sort of scientist the Doctor would nod at approvingly. Go buy it, and volume 1 too.

 


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