â€˜THE PURLOINED LETTERâ€™ — The Poe brothers continue their hunt for the perpetrator to a series of deaths that are plaguing Baltimore. They are finally making some progress on an important clue when they are suddenly attacked by a vicious monster from traditional Jewish folklore. The battle does not go well and the main villain of the piece manages to escape with the aforesaid numismatic indicator. However the malefactor had not counted on Edgarâ€™s powers of observation which lead both siblings swiftly back on to his trail again. This time the outcome of the engagement has a more lethal outcome but it does finally lead to Poe finally understanding the real reason behind the murders.
â€˜THE POWER OF WORDSâ€™ — As well as being a comic book fan, I also love to read mystery stories. The attraction to them for me started with Sherlock Holmes and slowly grew from there. Through time, it eventually lead me to the door of the acknowledged ancestor of the detective story: Edgar Allan Poe. I didnâ€™t just stop at reading his individual stories because I also wanted a working knowledge of how the genre was founded so I started making my way through the collected works of several of the more famous literary critics of the man and the apart from several differing styles of feedback, the main thing I discovered from them is that the vast majority of the mystery tales were actually written backwards. That is to say that Poe, even before he had placed one word on paper, knew exactly from the start why the murderers are being committed and was therefore able to sprinkle clues throughout his ensuing tale, which allowed the more perspicacious reader to try and guess the villains identity and motives. So in the spirit of historical Poe authenticity, I plan to do this review backwards from my usual style and start off by commenting firstly on the art.
â€˜THE PHOLOSOPHY OF COMPOSITIONâ€™ — I am not at all familiar with the work of Mr Dean Kotz but the second issue of this title was an extremely nice introduction to it. He has a nice sense of composition and the dramatic flow of the story is held together very well indeed. His use of forced sense of spatial reference tricks such as tilting the background doorframe when the villain walks through it only adds to the slightly surreal atmosphere that pervades this whole book. This strong reproduction of historical eras will I think serve him well when he takes over the artistic reins of the â€˜Black Coatâ€™ title in the near future. The other point that I wanted to note was it took me three separate read-throughs of the comic to finally make a connection that had been hidden in my sub-conscious but finally managed to struggle its way to the surface. I had been trying to work out exactly who Mr Kotzâ€™ style reminded me off and eventually I got it: the great Gil Kane. With the sometimes slightly skewed anatomical positions of the drawn characters, to the establishing shots that look full down onto a persons head or right up their noses, I felt as if I was reading a page of the late mastersâ€™ work. I really donâ€™t know if Dean has any regard for my Mr Kaneâ€™s lifelong output but maybe Gilâ€™s sprit is somewhere in the room when he is drawing these very pleasing pages.
â€˜HOW TO WRITE A BLACKWOOD ARTICLEâ€™ — I am equally not at all familiar with the work of Mr J. Barton Mitchell. I do know that he is new writer to our febrile community and if this is the quality that we can expect from him in the future then he should do very well indeed. The main sense that you get from reading through his story is that he has done the research. I have never met the man but I am willing to bet money that somewhere in his domicile there is a big fat reference file of documents and pictures pertaining to this particular period and this tale is all the better for it. That is not to say that Barton does not take literary liberties with Poeâ€™s actual life but only the churlish would begrudge the scribe this conceit. What I particularly liked in this creation was the sense that Edgar is not in full possession of his facilities, nor would we expect him to be because after all he is seeing ghostly representations of violent death and has also been recently discharged from a sanatorium. Still the battle to hold on to his fragile sanity, while still helping his brother William solve the mystery is well worth the price of admission alone but when that tenuous grip is greatly tested in the final pages of this tale its obvious that this mini-series is a cut above the mediocre and is well worth some serious attention.
â€˜THE MAN THAT WAS USED UPâ€™ â€“ Now of course with such a famous figure as Poe there have been many other attempts since his strange death to use him as a character in other peoples tales. In fact I have several of them in my own collection. From John Dickson Carrâ€™s marvellous short story, â€˜The Gentleman From Parisâ€™, to the truly wonderful novel by Kim Newman â€˜Route 666â€™ each of them takes on a different aspect of the famous writers life to illustrate a point or seminal point-of-view in their own narratives. This new interesting construct by Boom! Studios is not even the first comic book that has an Edgar Allan impersonation. Anyone who has been reading sequential art during the last few years will surely remember the wonderful Len Wein scribed Batman / Poe team-up story called â€˜Nevermoreâ€™ which is well worth searching for the next time you are at a convention and perhaps some of you have come across the translations of the Italian western comic album â€˜Magico Ventoâ€™ which has a Poe analogue as an assistant to the hero. Using famous people in other works is not new and the quality can be as greatly variable as the differing artists and writers who produce the works. Still this time I feel that this is a book that treats its subject matter with true respect and carefully tries to interweave some of the story tropes that Poe himself created. In my opinion itâ€™s no accident that the depicted villain looks like someone who was an extra in Roger Cormanâ€™s Red Death film adaptation and this level of detail will enhance the experience for anyone who loves the mystery story or respects its amazingly fertile mind of itsÂ progenitor.
â€˜THE TELL TALE HEARTâ€™ â€“ So for all of the above this intriguing book gets four stars from me.