When he’s saved from an early death by a mad scientist, an orphan takes up the mantle of death in Prohibition-era America.
Imagine Batman’s origin story by way of H.P. Lovecraft and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying this phantasmagorical pulp thriller by Hellboy creator Mignola (Joe Golem and the Drowning City, 2012, etc.) and Sniegoski (The Demonists, 2016, etc.). When we first meet our hero, Bentley Hawthorne, he’s being patched up by his faithful servant, Reginald Pym, after a nasty battle with a mad scientist’s murderous capuchin monkeys—yes, it’s that sort of story. We quickly learn that as a sickly boy, Bentley’s parents committed a supernatural trespass that saved his life but cost their own. Later, the newly hearty Bentley is visited by Roderick (a talking raven, naturally). In a bit ripped from the pages of Edgar Allan Poe, Bentley is to become an avatar of death itself. “It will be your purpose...your job, to avenge those who have had their lives brutally torn away,” says the bird. To that end, Bentley has taken up the visage of Grim Death, a pistol-wielding, skull-masked superhero cast in the pulpy tradition of throwbacks like Doc Savage and The Shadow. Add in sparky reporter Gwendolyn Marks and a host of campy villains and we’re a few strokes away from a Frank Miller movie. Grim Death is pitted, among other challenges, against a family of cannibals and a “Circus of Unearthly Wonderment” led by the evil Doctor Nocturne. But the heart of the story finds Bentley charged with finding the killer of Tianna Hoops, a murdered trapeze artist whose ghost implores Bentley to free her wrongly imprisoned paramour, Bill Tuttle, now on death row. If you’re wondering if this is the title criminal, it is, and the book makes good on its promise.
A thrilling, imaginative, and lurid illustrated novel that lovingly embraces the genre that inspired it.