As the home of Hellboy, along with the entire Mignola-verse, and the original home of Eric Powell's The Goon, Dark Horse Comics has long been a hub for fun and eerie horror properties. The publisher has a great reputation for delivering comics that capture your attention and put a smile on your face while simultaneously introducing you to worlds of the spooky and macabre. This week Dark Horse launched another project in that same vein: David Dastmalchian's Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter. It may be a much more meta, much less fantastical approach to the wild horror concepts that Dark Horse has been known for over the years, but it's still a wildly enjoyable introduction to what could be the publisher's next twisted hit.
Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter takes place in the year 1983 and tells the story of Jerri Bartman, a celebrated TV reporter that is forced to move back to her hometown after alcoholism sent her career into a downward spiral. At the start of the series, she finds herself reluctantly taking over as the TV personality Count Crowley, a late night horror special host much like Elvira or Joe Bob Briggs. However, she quickly learns that the previous Count Crowley, who has mysteriously gone missing, was also a well-known monster hunter in his time off, and his problems are now falling into her lap.
The premise is interesting, putting a spin on the fish out of water structure and taking a deeper dive into the scarcely explored lives of horror TV personalities. Where the book really shines is in its exploration and portrayal of its protagonist. Jerri is a fascinating character to follow. She's often blamed for her issues, by others and herself, but there's a sense of pride in her mistakes that makes her incredibly endearing. Jerri owns who she is at all times, even when she knows it's not someone she wants to be.
Part of Jerri's appeal comes from her actual design. The Sweeney Todd hairstyle and grungy vampire attire make her so much fun to watch as the book unfolds. That said, the character of Jerri, and the book as a whole, likely wouldn't work with a different art style. Lukas Ketner does a phenomenal job providing Count Crowley the exact tone it needs.
There are hints of Steve Dillon on every page of Count Crowley. It's not quite as clean, refined, or realistic as Dillon's work, but this comic really focuses on the details in a way that few comics today actually do. Jerri's expressions pop off of the page, making it all-too-easy to empathize with whatever situation she's found herself in. You can feel her pain, frustration, fear, and bewilderment whenever it's called for, even in the moments where she's in full makeup and there's fake blood running down her chin.
All of these details are found in a single issue origin story that sets up a really great series to follow, one that could easily launch an ongoing franchise in the near future. To top it all off, Count Crowley is wrapped in a bow of pulpy, throwback horror-camp, designed to feel more like an old monster 'zine than a modern comic book. It's got room to grow a bit, but this first issue is a fantastic start. If you're into spooky stories and zany monster tales, this one is definitely for you.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On October 23, 2019
Written by David Dastmalchian
Art by Lukas Ketner
Colors by Lauren Affe
Letters by Frank Cvetkovic