Actor and horror-lover David Dastmalchian cuts his teeth in the world of comics with the first issue of his debut series “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter.” The first of this four-issue horror-comedy mini-series from Dark Horse Comics will arrive on shelves this Wednesday just in time for Halloween. While it stumbles a bit out of the gate, there’s still plenty of boozy and monster-filled fun to be had.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Small town television reporter Jerri Bartman is in danger of losing her job due to her volatile on-air attitude. That is until she’s given a chance to host the network’s late-night creature feature and B-movie slot, filling in for the missing Count Crowley. While wearing the ridiculous costume and introducing old horror movies seems simple enough, her first night quickly gets complicated. A crazed stranger approaches her, demanding to see Count Crowley; A crazed stranger that turns into a werewolf. It seems that being a cheesy monster-flick host has more to it than was put in the job description.
Dastmalchian’s sense of dialogue is smooth and natural, and the humor is pretty on point for this type of book. Each character has his or her own believable voice, from Jerri’s dry sarcasm to her manager’s desperate but friendly demeanor. The book is a fluid page-turner carried entirely by character dialogue and action. There’s no additional narration, as this isn’t the sort of story that needs it. While the characters feel like tropes that have been done hundreds of times before, it fits the story’s simplicity. This is meant to be a comedic love letter to Hammer films and EC comics, and so far it nails it.
The major flaw in the writing, and honestly the only real flaw in the entire issue, is the opening sequence. It’s a flash-forward to what happens at the end of the book. Which works as the plot point the rest of the issue builds up to. Not only is it unnecessary and robs tension from the rest of the issue, but it also has some problems that make it feel tacked on. There’s a specific sequence with a magically appearing gun that then randomly appears in Jerri’s hands in the next panel. This “wait, where did that come from?” moment completely breaks the story’s immersion in the first few pages.
The art team’s work here on “Count Crowley” is pretty stellar. Lucas Ketner’s pencils and inks are full of believable environmental detail, bringing the 1980’s small-town feel to life in a quiet way. His stellar character drawings easily convey emotion to the reader and are honestly a bit reminiscent of hyper-detailed Scooby-Doo art. This is in no way an insult, and it works perfectly for the story being told. Ketner’s art is filled in by Lauren Affe’s fantastically appropriate colors, as she creates a sort of grainy overcast effect to the panels. She uses a muted color palette that simulates the look found in the classic Creepy and Eerie horror comics that “Count Crowley” pays tribute to. It’s a neat blend of nostalgia and modern technique.
“Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter” #1 is a simple yet fun jaunt into a nostalgic horror-comedy made just for fans of the genre. Despite a shaky opening, the story smooths out into an enjoyable page-turner with likable characters and great work from the art team. If you’re looking for a fun new read just before Halloween, David Dastmalchian’s debut comic is worth adding to your pull list.