Comics Review: "Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man" #1
- by Señor Editor, 14 February 2014
A few months ago, when I stumbled onto a Facebook fanpage dedicated to "Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man", an upcoming independent comicbook, I knew that's one title to keep an eye on. The few graphics and bits of information available made the comic seem very promising, and much more exciting than many of the titles currently on the stands. Today, issue #1 of Ward and Parker's "Merrick" is finally available, and I'm here to review it!
Oh, sorry, did you want me to build some suspense first? Too late. I'm not gonna try to keep you guessing if it's good, because this is really great stuff. Let's begin with the story.
The description of the comic at Facebook said this: "Joseph Merrick: The Elephant Man fucks up the occult, in a Victorian tale of gin joints, black magic and carnival freaks." That sounds admittedly awesome, but I was wondering if such a take on the character wouldn't change too much about Merrick, keeping only his appearance. I shouldn't have worried. Ward certainly did his homework, and the "origin" of the Elephant Man is firmly rooted in history. You will find that the world of "Merrick" is full of actual, historical characters and locations. It seems like the story is initially based on facts, though you can already see in the first issue that the authors are showing us their very own spin on it, already steering it in their own, fantastical and new direction. Even the way the story is told, with the narrative splitting between past and "present" events is unique and really helps build interest.
Merrick himself also retains the characteristics of his historical namesake. This isn't just some weirder-looking, asymmetrical version of Ben Grimm, only occasionally playing up the "tragic character" angle. Joseph Merrick in the comic feels and acts like a real person, constantly having to deal with real hell. Being abused, treated like he's less than human, all of that stuff. He's not an action hero here, instead he's very slowly and naturally growing into the badass, that I assume we'll see soon.
That's not to say he's not interesting to read about - on the contrary, he's fascinating (even moreso when you consider he's based on a real person) and Ward and Parker really give him an emotional depth in this issue.
Speaking of Parker, you probably noticed how great the art and the coloring (which I assume he does himself) looks in this book. You also maybe thought it reminds you of something.
Final thoughts: this is one of the best things I've read in recent months. It's a very promising start, and it's a pretty much a perfect #1. It sets the story up, gives you enough information about the characters to care, and it makes me really excited for the second issue. This comic also features some beautiful (seriously, some of them are amazing and would make great prints) pin-ups of Merrick (Who knew "pin-ups of Joseph Merrick" would ever become something anybody would like to see?), drawn by guest artists. Each of them is great, and that's some really good bonus content.
The best thing about it? You can download this issue completely free. Visit the comic's Facebook fanpage today and you should be able to get it by the time we publish this review. There will also be a Kickstarter for this series, and I seriously hope it succeeds. I think it will, since this comic seems like something any good publisher would want to put out. I wish Ward and Parker good luck and hope they really get their due, as this is some real good stuff. Whatever you do, make sure to check it out.
Where else can you look for some "Merrick" info? We mentioned the fanpage, but you can also follow the comic on Twitter. Look for the comic soon on ISSUU, and also make sure to check out Luke Parker's website and letterer Nic Shaw's page (Now we feel awful for not mentioning the lettering! It's very good, and good lettering makes for such a flawless reading experience that you often fail to notice it! That's our excuse!).
When you read the comic, make sure to tell us how much you loved it in the comments below!