Summary: From the creator of 30 Days of Night comes a collection so terrifying, so huge, so gritty and raw that it had to be called MONSTROUS! Collecting the collaborations between two living horror legends – Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson – this Monstrous Collection includes three complete tales: Dead She Said, The Ghoul, and Doc Macabre, each a piece of the dark, dangerous universe Niles has created in the shadows of the world we think we know. Enjoy them here, collected together and in oversized, black-and-white form for the first time.
The Monstrous Collection, by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson 7.5*
After reading ‘Creepy presents Bernie Wrightson‘, I felt compelled to seek any Wrightson book I could find. I was fortunate enough to find some at the library book store, but the library shelves themselves only had the one other book, ‘The Monstrous Collection’. I requested it, but it took a whole year to get into my eager hands.
This magnificent tome is a gigantic hardcover book collecting three books that Niles and Wrightson collaborated on for the IDW imprint since 2008: ‘Dead, She Said’, ‘The Ghoul’ and ‘Doc Macabre’. It not only delivers those three in glorious over-sized print, but it also collects a series of one-page art that Wrightson has made through the years.
The first story, ‘Dead, She Said’ is about a private investigator who wakes up after a night’s drinking to find that he is suffering from rigor mortis: he was shot the night before, but doesn’t know by whom and why. So he goes off to piece together this mystery, in the hope of getting revenge. And maybe discover why he’s still alive but dead. Creepy things await.
This one has a major plot hole in it, in that Coogan is shot by the scientist to get him out of the way. However, the same scientist uses his giant killer ants to get his other intended targets. That’s inconsistent. Why didn’t he just send his ants after Coogan and make him disappear? Wouldn’t that have been more logical? Anyway, how did Coogan escape after getting shot?
For all my complaints, that tale was pretty creepy. It was so weird that this guy would be dead but still be conscious and rotting alive (which was also comical in that he stunk up every place he went to). Even more weird was that he could get embalmed and remain conscious. Ick. And then there’s the small matter of the creature the scientist is putting together…
The second story follows a police detective who stumbled upon a case he can’t quite figure out. An eternal skeptic, he begins to believe that there may be more than what logic can dig up. So he enlists the help of The Ghoul, an investigator who specializes in unusual cases, most of which are of the paranormal variety. If only he had known what he was getting into…
The Ghoul looks like a sleeker, more intelligent version of the Hulk. He’s pretty funny, but it doesn’t make up for the story, which is mostly action-oriented. It’s not bad stuff, hardly, but it’s sort of uni-dimensional, where the other one at least gave its main character a personal struggle. Speaking of which, Coogan returns in a brief cameo in this one.
The final story involved Doc Macabre, a character we’re briefly introduced to in the second volume. He’s a boy genius who fights paranormal entities with a bevy of high-tech gadgetry that he invents and builds himself. His inventions are mostly of a design that were common place in ’50s sci-fi – for example this suit he builds which is highly reminiscent of Robby the Robot.
Whereas ‘The Ghoul’ was more of a light action piece, this one falls right into comedy, with all sorts of gags or situational-type scenarios taking the spotlight. Naturally, the downside of it is that it’s sloppier, with the characters doing illogical things, …etc. But it’s fun, and it ties in both Coogan and The Ghoul into the plot, at least briefly, which is nice.
The overall vibe of the book is akin to the old school horror comics from the ’50s. I haven’t read many of those, and it’s been decades since, but I recall getting a similar vibe from them: you know, slightly unsophisticated, but entertaining – and, ultimately, vehicles for creepy monsters and icky, gory stuff. Everything else is pretty much secondary to these.
Case-in-point, much of these stories depend on Bernie Wrightson’s art. Without his brand of black and white illustrations, the book would like not work at all. Interestingly enough, and totally in keeping with the aforementioned focus of the book, Wrightson’s best work is always when he’s drawing creatures, ghouls and undead carcasses. The rest he does moderately well.
What’s great about this book is that there’s a gallery of past one-page pieces of art by Wrightson at the tail end. And it’s a substantive one. Anybody who wants to get a really good sense of what he’s capable of should head right for that part of the book: not only is the work more detailed, but he uses different mediums as well, truly highlighting his skill. Plus it’s creepy stuff.
All this to say that, even if the writing isn’t as polished as I like it to be, it’s totally in keeping with the genre. And if one is into this brand of creepiness, they should absolutely take a look at ‘The Monstrous Collection’. The book not only does it well, but it’s a lovely-looking hardcover. And anything featuring Wrightson’s work is certainly worth a look.
…if you can manage to peel your fingers from your eyes, that is.
*Since writing this blurb, I have read the original “Dead, She Said” and it’s worth noting that all of this was intended to be in colour. Wrightson’s art isn’t nearly as fleshed out as it could precisely because he was leaving room for the colour to be added in later. I wish that there was a disclaimer in ‘The Monstrous Collection’ to advise readers in advance; it heavily influences the way one looks at his work.