And Then I Read: THE GHOUL

© Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson.

I like the horror work of both Niles and Wrightson, and when I saw this in San Diego, I had to have it. I wondered what sort of feel it would convey, and surprisingly, the closest thing to it is HELLBOY. The Ghoul is a monster of unknown origin, even to himself, something the book begins to explore. Having survived in the shadows for centuries, he’s now working on supernaturally horrific cases for the FBI, among others. Niles plays him as confident, sarcastic, even funny at times, which works well against his looks, as with Hellboy. In the main story, The Ghoul has been called in on a case by a Los Angeles detective investigating a beautiful actress who might have made a deal with the devil. It’s a good setup, and an entertaining read, with enough twists to keep things interesting.

Wrightson’s art is fine, though a bit looser than his best work, but perhaps he’s entitled to that approach. He’s still a master of dramatic shading and lighting, and knows how to fill a panel. The shot selection is a bit mundane at times, but then so is the approach of the dialogue, so I guess that fits, too. Niles does not go in for melodrama here, it’s more the hardboiled detective sort of thing, despite the demons. It all works fine.

The backup is a text story with spot illustrations by Wrightson, and I found it even more enjoyable than the lead, oddly enough. It gives Niles much more room to develop his character, who is on the trail of a gruesome killer when he suddenly meets what seems to be a female version of himself. The Ghoul has never encountered anything like that in his long life, and this story opens up his past and delves into his soul in ways that are moving and heartbreaking. An excellent story which doesn’t need art, though the close-up, detailed looks at Wrightson’s work are nice to see anyway.

I continue to be impressed with the design and production quality of IDW’s books that I’ve seen recently. This one is great from the pre-distressed cover to the thick glossy paper and top-notch printing. Well done, all around, and highly recommended!

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