Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #1
By Kim Newman, Maura McHugh, Tyler Crook & Dave Stewart
Finally, a new Witchfinder miniseries! Loyal fans of the Mignolaverse have been waiting for this for a long time now, especially since Edward Grey has cemented himself as an important figure in Hellboy in Hell. However, there is no sign of the usual suspects this time around; no Mike Mignola, no John Arcudi, none of the usual writers. Some fans have been understandably nervous about this one, but the Mysteries of Unland arc is off to a terrific start.
The first installment shows that Kim Newman and Maura McHugh were great choices to deal with this book. The story is, of course, consistent with what we’ve come to expect from both the Mignolaverse in general and the Witchfinder series in particular. However, Mysteries of Unland #1 has a very distinct detective tone that is perfectly blended with the Victorian setting. Newman and McHugh also really nail the language used through, with pitch-perfect character dialogue. So far, this story feels like a more overt detective mystery than previous Witchfinder titles, but the execution is terrific and makes for a very immersive reading experience. All of the subtle references relevant to the setting also enhanced the writing, and the dialogue had a subtle intellect well-suited to the period. It’s also great to see the varied dialects coming through for different characters.
The artwork for this series is handled by some much more familiar Mignolaverse names. Tyler Crook is back on illustrations and, as we’ve come to expect, this book looks exactly how it should. Every image is perfectly detailed from character designs to the background environments. There is some particularly clean line work in this issue, and always a lot to take in with the stunning background detail in each panel. Some of the darker supernatural elements of this story were particularly effective and creepy looking. Again though, it’s the terrific design accuracy which really captures the period that is most impressive. The old-school detective story and minor pulp tone are really conveyed quite well through the overall visual style employed. This is, of course, also due to Dave Stewart’s color contributions. As noted with the writing and illustrations, the colors perfectly capture the period and specific environments featured in Mysteries of Unland #1. One section of the book that was particularly entertaining featured a couple of pages made to appear like something you might find in a Victorian newspaper. This carries the hapless police inspector’s clumsy theory about the crime being investigated, and adds a wonderful sense of humor.
The legacy of Witchfinder is definitely in good hands with this creative team. The Mysteries of Unland arc is off to a great start, and this could potentially be the best Edward Grey story yet. Even if you aren’t familiar with the character, you will definitely find something to enjoy about this book.