Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #2 – David Dastmalchian, Lukas Ketner, Lauren Affe & Frank Cvetkovic (Dark Horse Comics)

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Journalists don’t have an off switch. When they pick up the scent of a story, they doggedly pursue it to the bitter end regardless of the outcome the personal cost. And whatever else she may be, Jerri Bartman is still a newshound. Sure, she might have an ongoing love affair with cheap bourbon, she’s almost certainly one rung away from the bottom of the professional career ladder and she’s just landed a gig as the world’s least likely Horror Host, but when she’s pursued by werewolf following the broadcast of her first monster centric show, she knows that somewhere, buried deep beneath the fur and the fangs and lurking behind the disappearance of her predecessor, there’s a story that’s just dying to be discovered.

Kicking into blood thirsty high gear from the very first panel, the second chapter of David Dastmalchian’s Count Crowley Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter dispenses with all of the niceties of lesser comics and goes straight for the reader’s jugular. His world weary protagonist Jerri is almost too real thanks to her being built from layer after delicate layer of the most destructive and wonderful personality traits and foibles, all of which make her complicated, interesting, obnoxious and vulnerable in equal measure.  She’s the anti-hero that the story needs, a steroid infused Karl Kolchak whose disbelief in the mysterious world she’s gradually becoming immersed in is slowly dissipating as she crosses paths with one monster after another.

While the plot, dialogue, characterisation and Jerri are Count Crowley’s deliciously dark lynchpins, its Lukas Ketner’s nostalgically gorgeous and retrotastic artwork and Lauren Afffe’s muted, time drenched colours that bring the book to gloriously horrific life. Drowning in its love for the last days of the halcyon age of local television horror shows, paying homage to cult classics such as Fright Night, The Howling and The Monster Squad and littered with more references to geek culture than a parade of cosplayers at comic con, Count Crowley has leapfrogged straight to the top of my pull list. There are lots of comics that you should be reading, all of which are continually jostling for position on shop shelves, but there’s only one title that you NEED to read right now. And this is it… Tim Cundle

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