Thursday, May 8, 2014

Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

When it comes to comics, you can come across some writer/artist pairings that just flop.  The artist may use a sharp, dynamic style that just doesn’t fit the slow, methodical Victorian story, or perhaps the cartoony drawings may not be the most effective way to tell the story of a murder mystery.  Every comic fan has read a book before where the writing and art just didn’t work together.  But sometimes, the combination is just perfect.  And in Murder Mysteries, based on the short story by Neil Gaiman, illustrated and adapted by P. Craig Russell, the combination couldn’t be better.

Murder Mysteries follows a young man who is stranded in Los Angeles while his flight is delayed, and spends some time with an old flame.  After returning to his hotel, he goes out for a walk and meets an old man who will pay for cigarettes with a story of the first murder, in Heaven, and how he, formerly an angel, tracked down the killer.

While this, at first glance, may not seem to be the most fascinating plot, anyone familiar with Gaiman’s work knows that he can turn it into a masterpiece, and he does.  The complexities of the plot unwind at the perfect pace, and the incredible parallels that appear were completely unexpected, and all the more chilling because of it.  What readers familiar with Gaiman’s work might not expect is that Russell will take the story and make it even better in his adaption, crystallizing the story and presenting a fascinating view of Heaven to set the story in.

I first read Russell’s adaption when it was released about a decade ago, and read it again for the forthcoming re-release from Dark Horse Comics.  The story very much stands up to second readings.  The new edition doesn’t make many changes, other than including an essay at the end regarding Russell’s work in Murder Mysteries reprinted from The Art of P. Craig Russell, so if you own the original, buying the new edition may not be critical.  However, for readers who haven’t yet encountered Gaiman and Russell’s masterwork, this is the perfect time to check it out.

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