By Corey Fryia, Tony Gregori, Sean Burres, Dann Franco, Joshua Jensen, Bruno Letizia, Taylor Esposito, Felipe Cunha and Jasen Smith
One excellent writer with multiple and talented artists makes up the eclectic and capable team of creators that presents a comic book that strikes at the core of pulp nostalgia. Doctor Crowe is hands-down one of the most enjoyable comics on the shelf currently not to mention a terrific platform for creators with a passion for this original concept. Despite originality. and a sense of freshness, there is a distinct air of comfort with any familiarities of the character and his storyline. Writer and co-creator Corey Fryia blends elements from complimentary genres like steam punk, supernatural-horror, and science fiction. The result is an entertaining, colorful, well-drawn comic book that can best be described as pure pulp fiction.
Like issue #1, the second book to this series contains more than one short story crafted by a single writer’s voice, brought to life by a revolving cast of artists and colorists to bring you the exploits of the costumed Doctor Crowe himself.
The second volume kicks off with “Darkness Calls”, illustrated by Tony Gregori, colored by Sean Burres, as the Doctor and his assistant side-kick, Nora Flood, make an yet another unusual house call. Responding to a letter for help from a cemetery caretaker, the good Doctor and Miss Flood soon find themselves up to their ears in horrific circumstances. The first tale capitalizes on the supernatural and, though it’s a quick and tidy story, this is a great intro into the courageous and daring journey of Crowe and his associate that ends up more of a showcase for the art than the writing. But, Fryia definitely provides some great material for Tony Gregori to demonstrate his skill in depicting scenes that evoke a sense of dread and panic. Even before the action heats up readers will surely feel a building anxiety of sorts from Gregori’s dynamic layouts and arrangements. One fully realized panel after another is then rendered in beautiful textures and color palettes by Sean Burres who proves that even elements of horror can be colorful and bright. In the first story’s darkest moments, between writing and art, there is a persistent and welcomed cheeriness that maintains a level of good fun throughout.
“Brigade of Bones” drawn by Dann Franco with colorist Joshua Jensen puts Crowe on the offensive once again, showing it’s nearly impossible to back him into a corner. Facing his next challenge head on, this story is action-packed with plenty of gore. Artist Dann Franco’s style has just the right amount of raw intensity for a scene filled with chaos and violence. Combined with Joshua Jensen’s colors, each page of this middle installment advances the excitement. Strategic ink splatters against fierce orange, or shockingly green backgrounds infuse a thrilling sense of adventure as the odds seem increasingly stacked against our hero while he once again faces off against supernatural creatures from beyond the grave. It just goes to show that even grim circumstances and a potentially dark storyline can remain light and accessible.
Wrapping up this second volume is the third and final story, “Feast for the Eyes”, with art by Bruno Letizia and colors by the aforementioned Sean Burres. Here the pacing seemingly slows down just long enough for a true investigation to take place. An unlikely ally not only helps the Doctor with his case, but Fryia uses the secondary character to provide story points and details long enough for Crowe to beat the odds. No matter the challenge, and no matter the outcome, Doctor Crowe consistently utilizes the right artists for the job, and this third story is no different. Bruno Letizia illustrates a thoughtful story that keeps the stakes heightened even during calmer moments. Of course that calm doesn’t last and before long the story gives way to a more traditional state of affairs complete with monsters and ghosts. Although it’s worth mentioning that this final chapter of issue two stays true to the book’s overall horror theme by using drama more than the previous two, which relied mostly on action. Burres’ colors once again create the correct emotional responses, and there is an undeniable reward from what in the end feels like a cohesive universe from cover to cover.
As fun as this comic may be, the potential for a full length single story, if not an entire series dedicated to a primary story arc about Doctor Crowe leaves a profound yearning. On the one hand it’d be a disappointment to go without such a thing, while at the same time you may find yourself with a “take what you can get” attitude. Either way, there’s a rich aspect to the comic that would likely work indefinitely as subsequent or collected short stories.
Publisher 215Ink. may not be as popular a name as other companies, but credit where credit is due for producing a quality book such as Doctor Crowe. This comic collaboration is something to be proud of for everyone involved. With terrific cover art by Felipe Cunha and Jasen Smith and expert lettering throughout by one-man-show Taylor Esposito, Doctor Crowe is a complete package with layers of professionalism and creativity that deserves attention.