Wednesday, July 13, 2016
The Monstermen first appeared in the pages of Hellboy. All of the stories were written and drawn by Gary Gianni, a remarkable artist who has since gone on to be the successor to John Cullen Murphy on the venerable Prince Valiant comic strip, only the third artist on that venerable American creation.
He has moved on from Camelot in more recent years still, but as with this volume his early Dark Horse work is still with us and is fascinating in many respects.
"The Monstermen" is a small (somewhat undefined) group also called "Corpus Monstrum" and are dedicated to fending off supernatural attacks of various kinds. You get the sense that there are others, but the two we actually meet are the helmeted Benedict who takes the lead and his associate Lawerence St. George, a movie magnate who seems to be an assistant. We also encounter a villain of sorts named Crulk who reappears in very peculiar ways.
In the stories contained in this volume the team battles vengeful ghosts, dark demons and shambling monsters across the globe. My favorite story is titled "The Skull and the Snowman" in which the team encounters a most familiar monster. The stories are exceedingly luxurious in their image, but frankly I found the storytelling a bit too spare in places to allow me to keep up. There is though a wonderful atmosphere to the stories as a whole that elevates them, even with some meager plots.
The volume from Dark Horse contains the whole canon was supplemented by several classic horror and fantasy stories by the likes of William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard. Gianni is an outstanding illustrator and he adds to classics like Howard's "Old Garfield's Heart" and Smith's "Mother of Toads".
I found this book for cheap, but it's really rather worth its price if you can find it.