Canadian boutique publisher Renegade Arts Entertainment’s first monthly series upholds their characteristic focus on high quality comics.
My only complaint with any of the books Canadian small press Renegade Arts Entertainment has put out in the last couple of years is a selfish one. Having garnered a well-deserved reputation for publishing critically acclaimed OGNs such as Kindzierski and Bolton’s Shame cycle, Alan Grant’s Channel Evil, and The Loxleys: The War of 1812, I only wish their output was greater.
Their first monthly limited series is Dept. of Monsterology, from the twisted minds of Gordon Rennie and P.J. Holden (most recently of Numbercruncher fame with Si Spurrier) and it is arguably their most accessible book, perhaps signalling a larger commitment to future monthly projects (should all go well here). In some ways, DoM is Renegade Arts’ most polished book, as well. Rennie and Holden have gone to enormous lengths to build an intriguing, fully-realized secondary world, tapping into the occult adventure sub-genre of comics popularized by Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Mythos, while still retaining their own unique voices.
Following the misadventures of two teams of paranormal investigators based out of the secretive Dunsany College, where DoM branches off from books like BPRD and its ilk is its focus on exploration and knowledge over conflict and world-ending cataclysms. Granted, this is only the first issue, so who knows what Rennie has planned (I suspect there might be a world-ending cataclysm in there somewhere) but this first issue takes great pains at establishing Teams Challenger and Carnacki as scientists and professors rather than soldiers.
Rennie does a superlative job introducing an extensive, eclectic cast of intriguing specialists, structuring his character hierarchy cleverly using a college faculty framework. This both highlights each character’s identity by linking them to a special discipline such as cryptozoology or mythological geography and anchors them all to their respective teams. Rennie wastes no time or pages with his introductions, economically allowing each member of his huge cast a moment in the spotlight yet never scrimping on meaningful emotional beats. Glued to his central premise, Rennie never sacrifices characterization for spectacle, instead striving for a nice balanced approach to his script – and succeeding grandly.
P.J. Holden may just be my favorite artist working right now. A testament to the fact that modern comic book art doesn’t have to skew mainstream to be effective to engender audience excitement, Holden’s art continues to be a revelation. Atmospheric yet accessible, he’s perfectly matched to Rennie’s occult adventure story. Each character lives and breathes with distinction and craft, thanks in large part to Holden’s wonderful designs. Professor Harry Wilmington’s armor alone is a magnificent mystery brought to life by Holden’s vision and sets the reader’s imagination soaring, wondering at its possible origins.
A wonderful, well-crafted occult adventure that seems to have a more optimistic aura about it thanks to a focus on study and exploration over spectacular violence (though there’s some of that too!), Dept. of Monsterology hopefully heralds more monthly offerings from Renegade Arts.
Gordon Rennie (W), P.J. Holden (A), Steve Denton (C) • Renegade Arts Entertainment, $3.99, October 9, 2013.