The investigation into Dr. Knox’s laboratory continues. The corpses are horrifying, but the living, no longer human, creatures who capture Newbury and Hobbes are another story. Will they get away? And just how many of these creatures are there?
Writer: George Mann
Artist: Dan Boultwood
Letterer: Rob Steen
Publisher: Titan Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: October 10, 2018
Previously in Newbury & Hobbes: A mysterious cult has been kidnapping people in London. But it’s never just one thing. After finding a mysterious body, their investigation leads then to the lab of Dr. Knox. And the investigation is just beginning!
DOWN INTO THE SEWERS OF LONDON
Newbury and Hobbes: The Undying # 2 starts out with a bang. Or, more technically, immediately after one. Scotland Yard now has a big, gaping hole in the wall. Elsewhere, we flash to someone who is plainly up to no good. A man in a skull mask and powered exo-skeleton orders “the carriers” to be released. In the foggy, London night, several people are unceremoniously dumped around the city. As they wake up, each discovers in horror that they have a new surgical wound on their chest.
Meanwhile, in the laboratory of Dr. Aubrey Knox, Veronica Hobbes and Sir Maurice Newbury, along with Professor Archibald Angelchrist and Sir Charles Bainbridge somberly explore the rotting corpses and surgical tools. It’s an exact replica of the other lab, but lower down and apparently disused. Miss Hobbes gets a flashback to a previous adventure when she had been captured by Dr. Knox and held here. So deep is she in her reverie that she doesn’t notice the hulking, heavily scarred humanoid form that comes out of the shadows and attacks. Everyone joins in the fight, to almost no avail. Bullets do not slow it down. It takes a jolt of electricity from Sir Charles’ cane to drop it.
But the creature was not the only one! The four investigators are captured and taken below the lab, into the sewers where, to the amazement of all, not only are there even more of the creatures, but they have built a little community for themselves out of the detritus of London. Sir Maurice et al are locked into primitive enclosures, and here we have an interesting discussion – the creatures were plainly human before. They speak some English. They built a community. Are they monsters, or are they not?
The next day, when the guards are more complacent, the resourceful Miss Hobbes pulls a penknife out of hiding and cuts through the ropes holding their cells together. They make a run for it, and the creatures come after them. In the struggle, a child creature gets knocked into the water and Sir Maurice makes a crucial decision – it is a child and it cannot swim. He jumps in and rescues it. He gives the child back and assures the creatures that he is trying to stop the evil they experienced, and that they will be safe. There is a pause, and the creatures let everyone go. This is incredibly moving.
Newbury and Hobbes go back to Scotland Yard and get caught up on the explosion that occurred there. And the Inspector has a note that was dropped off there for Sir Maurice. It is signed by Dr. Aubrey Knox. Who is not dead after all.
The writing is interesting. We see the men primarily by their actions and what they say. Miss Hobbes, as the narrator, shares her impressions and memories directly with us. Through Newbury, we see much of the process of the investigation. Through Miss Hobbes, we see the horror of it all.
MOODY AND ATMOSPHERIC
Newbury & Hobbes: The Undying #2 has a terrific look to it. Right from the start when we are peering outside through the hole in the wall of Scotland Yard, over the rubble and into the foggy London night, it has loads of atmosphere. In addition, some of the large panels are also framed with a decorative bottom edge featuring silhouettes of chains, gears, or keys. Not only does this make for striking panels, but it gets the steampunk idea in our heads without having to be completely over the top.
The line work is strong and expressive. We can tell when people are terrified. Between ink and color, there is also good use of shadow. This is the Victorian era, so the dark places they explore are lit by lantern light. Shadows are also appropriate considering the horror feeling of the book. In addition to the shadow, the color palette has a brownish tinge to it, like the coal-smoke fogs of the time. You can almost feel how thick the fog is.
But I really love when we meet the creatures from the sewer. The first one we see is monstrous, huge with empty eyes, claws, and long teeth. When more of them arrive, they are just as monstrous, but they are distinct individuals. In the sewers we see their makeshift homes, and we see the children playing. They look just as much like monsters, but they have lives beyond jumping out and scaring people. This, as much as anything else, makes you stop and think, which is awesome.
BOTTOM LINE: TAKING STEAMPUNK TO THE NEXT LEVEL
While there is a Holmesian vibe to Newbury & Hobbes: The Undying #2, this is a book that has a flavor all its own. Newbury investigates and observes, and Miss Hobbes is more than just the person who records the adventures. There’s a lot of strange science with hints of mysticism, but it really fits together. This may be my favorite take on steampunk on comics yet, but I do believe that the appeal of this story goes far beyond that.