Dept. of Monsterology is a new title by Gorden Rennie, who recently returned to comic book writing from video games such as Risen 2, and artist PJ Holden of the Numbercruncher series (see our review here).
The premise of the story involves an academic study group, officially the Department of Cryptozoology, Mythological Studies, Parapsychology and Fortean Phenomena at the Dunsany College, nicknamed the Dept. of Monsterology. The department is well-funded by a private foundation and its mission is to globally explore dangerous and phantasmal lost places and creatures of myth and nightmare. The group attempts to employ scientific and non-destructive methods, in opposition and contrast to a rival profit-seeking organization from the Lamont Institute.
The artwork of Monsterology is impressive with fabulous drawings by Holden of a wide variety of monsters encountered even in just these first two issues. The style somewhat brings to mind a comic book from the 1950s, Tales From the Crypt (which spawned the HBO series), of which I had the great fortune of inheriting a few issues. The similarity of macabre subject matter makes this a splendid choice of form and atmosphere to emulate.
I was particularly enthralled with the iridescence of the myriad scenes with phosphorescent-type effects and want to give a huge shout-out to colorist Stephen Denton. The only weakness in the artwork was in the human characters, which sometimes had incongruously lined expressions and odd angles or perspectives to the limbs. This was primarily noticeable, however, because of the stunningly rendered depictions of the monsters.
The storyline, however, needs some improvement. The concept of exploring obscure supernatural myths from a variety of cultures is excellent and can certainly sustain many, many issues. I also very much appreciate the addition of the tension between the two competing organizations, which provides a potential platform for commentary on ethical exploration versus exploitation.
The problem is that within each of these two issues, the author chose to jump around among multiple exploration sites and adventures. The transitions between are not very smooth and have one saying, “Wait… what?” and backtracking to make sure one hasn’t missed something. I can certainly understand the aim, especially with the first few issues, to establish as many of the characters and as much of the back story as possible to draw the reader in, but I hope that future issues will settle into a primary event that will consume most of the issue. I think that for the most part, comic books are brief enough without having to resort to multiple story arcs within to satisfy even the modern “Twitterified” attention span.