Okay, it’s time for another Single Comic Review!
This week, I’m reviewing Hank Steiner, Monster Detective.
This book was published by K Studios. It was written by Scott Schmidt, with pencils and inks by Tyler Solwes and colored and lettered by Sara Solwes. There’s no editor on this book, and it shows.
As always, the reviews are based on Prince songs: Adore means buy the book, Beautiful Strange means take it or leave it, and When Doves Cry means don’t buy the book.
Basically, this is a done-in-one story about Frankenstein’s Monster as a private detective. Calling this story a mystery is a bit of a stretch. The setup is simple: in this world, humans live side-by-side with monsters. Someone is killing imps, and Hank stumbles into the story, does the smallest amount of digging, finds out who’s doing the killing with the sketchiest of reasons why, and dispatches them. Story over.
I don’t talk about covers much, but this cover was somewhat abstract. Because of that, I decided I wanted to review the book. I thought it would be worth the time. I was half right.
The story is simple. Being 24 pages long, I can see why that is. There isn’t a lot of time for character development or story development. You have to get in and out, and be quick about it.
The thing that struck me first about the writing was the amount of cursing in the book. It didn’t put me off, but it was definitely noticeable. It took me out of the story because it called attention to itself. (The bar over the offending words helped out tremendously in taking me out of the story, because I spent a little bit of time trying to figure out if my guesses were correct in what I thought was behind the bar.)
The story was skin deep, and not satisfying as a mystery. There was the obligatory things that needed to happen in every mystery since Philip Marlowe: the detective finds a mystery, starts to investigate, there’s a fight or two, the hero gets knocked out, wakes, finds themselves in trouble, gets out of it, and dispatches the bad guys. Happens all the time.
There were things missing, though. First, no girl. Oh, there’s Iris, the secretary (who’s got Medusa-like hair with eyeballs at the end of the strands), but there’s no femme fatale. Also, no money ever changes hands. This is not a paid job that Hank is on. He’s doing this for free, and it feels false because of it.
All of the narration is first person, as it should be. It’s a mystery with a private eye. It almost necessitates a first person account. But Hank doesn’t feel world-weary to me. He doesn’t feel jaded or cynical. He’s just a shamus doing his job. For free.
The art needs work. The biggest thing is that Hank isn’t always in the same proportion to his surroundings. Most of the time he’s bigger than everyone else, but there are times when Hank is on the wrong plane and just seems like he’s as big as the people he’s supposed to be towering over. There are anatomy issues here and there. Will it stop you from enjoying the book? Probably not. But they’re noticeable.
The coloring is good. Things that need to be shown are, and not much gets lost because of the palette. The coloring is doing its job.
Where this book really falls down, though, is the lettering. It calls attention to itself. As a letterer, Sara has a very long way to go.
First, again, the bars over the foul language took me out of the story. Anything that calls attention to itself is bad. And there’s a lot of cursing in this book, so there are a lot of bars.
The second thing is that Hank has a different font than everyone else. That’s not distracting, because it’s the way it should be. But he’s the only one with a different font. Everyone else—even the monsters—have the same font. Not good. That shows a lack of imagination.
The next thing are the word balloons themselves. They aren’t formed well, and they sometimes cramp the words inside. Most of the time, a true diamond isn’t formed within the balloon, so it becomes extremely apparent when the dialogue is almost hitting the wall of the balloon. And a lot of them have a lot of wasted space in them.
Next are the tails of the balloons. A lot of them are as blunt as clubs. Not good. They should be sharp at the end, like needles.
The final thing about the lettering is the proliferation of crossbar I’s. They should generally only be used for the personal pronoun. It looks like Sara knows this, but she didn’t do anything like a second read-through to make sure they didn’t sneak through where they shouldn’t have. The dialogue is rife with them. It’s a terrible sight to behold. The crossbar I’s call attention to themselves.
The lettering is where a competent editor would have been the most help. Keeping Hank in proportion to everything/everyone else would be great, because only a part of that can be attributed to style, but the lettering is atrocious.
In the end, I wish the interior art was more like the cover art. I’d love to have seen something a little more impressionistic. I wasn’t overly impressed with the story or the writing, but I wasn’t throwing up my hands in disgust about it, either. I was only disgusted with the lettering.
This is not a bad book. It just needs some work.
Final verdict: Beautiful Strang