MERRICK: THE SENSATIONAL ELEPHANTMAN, VOL. 1
Writer: Tom Ward
Illustrator: Luke Parker
Publisher: Self-Published (A Ward & Parker Comic)
WHAT IS IT?
Ward & Parker take the legend of Joseph Merrick (The Elephantman) and turn him into a badass superhero with conspiracies all about.
Simply put, Merrick Vol. 1 is a comic set in Victorian London that's part biography, real-life history, horror, action, and part superhero; all great things combined into one universe.
Merrick Vol. 1 includes Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman #1-4, plus extras.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Take what you know about real-life Joseph Merrick and sprinkle in the shadowy conspiracy of the Masons and you have Merrick Vol. 1. The beginning half does follow the real-life story of Merrick, yet Ward adds in more fantasy crumbs throughout while keeping some non-fiction facts. That is until Merrick takes revenge upon the Road Manager who left him broke and for dead, Carlo Ferrari.
Donning his self-made mask, The Elephantman goes out to take revenge on Ferrari. Yet in the background, it seems the Masons want him for other reasons, while even more shady figures make themselves known in London. He might be one of the weirdest caped crusaders out there, but it seems everyone wants a piece of him. What's an Elephantman to do?
Yes, I'm always yammering on about the cover, albeit this time I have a great reason! Parker's cover is what initially drew me in, doing what a cover is meant to do: intrigue readers enough to read it. I saw the team post it on Twitter (I don't remember the context) and I knew I had to read it.
Something that isn't seen often yet is amazing to add: social media/website URLs. In the back of the trade is a complete list of everyone that worked on the book and on the pin-up art. For everyone listed, there is a social media name listed and their personal websites. It's a small touch that makes a huge difference.
Merrick is akin to Mike Mignola's work, especially his Hellboy Universe, causing some (including me) to compare the two. Yet, to be compared to something as great as said creator and universe is a great feat and one to be proud of, especially for one's first comic series. Plus, you can see the team doing their own things while improving each issue.
Merrick has a memorable logo that pops off the page and will remain in your head for days.
A story can be amplified when the city/world it takes place in feels alive, much like Batman's Gotham. The same can be said for Merrick's London which is brimming with life. It helps that Parker's art of the city is gorgeous with a myriad of details.
Within four issues, the team is able to pack in a great deal of world-building that helps the world and characters come to life.
Ward is able to mix multiple genres together well while still keeping the base of the real-life Merrick in the story.
The story of Merrick's life is interesting enough, yet when Ward starts mixing in a shadow organization (The Masons) and other fantasy elements, the world explodes with possibilities that'll have you clamoring for more.
Ward writes each character in distinct ways that set them all apart with Merrick being the most interesting. You start to understand his pain and sorrow while rooting for him.
While there are slower-paced moments, they never linger too long or feel out of place. Instead, they add a lot to the story and the world. Then, when the action and quicker-paced moments kick in, the pause is welcome and warranted.
Issue three's cliffhanger is amazing. That's all I'll say about that!
Parker's art will draw you in just as greatly as Ward's writing does. During the second issue, Parker includes a match cut between panels that works beautifully while showing a keen visual eye. The same can be said for the few intimidation scenes involving Merrick that look horrifying and intimidating, exactly what they were going for.
Parker adds small panels and a few "cutaway" panels that help build the story while not taking up too much of a page. Some can be seen as more scenic and not world-building, yet that doesn't apply to all.
The colors are a bit shaky at first, yet each issue Parker improves on this aspect immensely. One cool tidbit is how Ferrari is colored. Any panel he is in he's draped in red showing how he is "evil." A small detail, yet cool. Plus, that and his design gives him the old scheming devil look.
In a later issue that includes more action-heavy pages, Parker's art looks fantastic in motion. Each hit lands hard, making you feel the action in your bones. During some of these pages, they are silent which gives the action a chance to breathe. Yet, when the lettering kicks in, it works just as well.
Shaw's lettering isn't quite as noticeable in the first few issues, as sound effects are small and not as abundant as the later issues. Nonetheless, when the sound effects kick in, it does so with a boom that adds even more to the actions seen on-page.
Merrick Vol.1 adds in character bios/portraits which is a nice touch that helps you remember each character by face/name and history. These are located in the far back but could've been even more effective had they been placed in the issue breaks.
Every aspect grew in quality over the four issues. You can see where they improved on different parts while trying new things.
I love the name "Reginald"! It's not a name seen often, yet it's a cool one.
Memorable Quote: "Well it would seem you and Mr. Merrick have at least one thing in common." – Thomas Hardy to Treves.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
As gorgeous as the Trades cover is, it is a bit too busy. Take out a few elements and the flow would feel better. Alas, this is but a minor gripe on an otherwise amazing cover.
In the first few issues, the brighter colors clash with the art, making some instances look off. Yet, as noted, as the issues go on the team's work greatly improves, colors included.
Much like the previous note, some actions seem stiff. But, as the series goes on this "stiffness" vastly improves. Plus, a few characters suffer from "Same Face Syndrome," but this also improves over time.
One page in the first issue is hard to read as a speech bubble overlaps from the bottom, making you want to read that panel next. Yet, the panels to the right are the correct order, but the bubble placement confuses your direction.
For the team's first work published work, they did extremely well, especially considering how vast they plan to make the Merrick Universe. The few minor mistakes noted in this section are nothing more than "beginner" flubs that the team fixes as time goes on.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Merrick Vol.1 is Ward & Parker's first foray into creating/publishing a comic. With any creators' first work on something, they will run into a few hiccups trying to learn how everything works while building a world. Albeit, beyond its few "new series" hiccups, Merrick Vol.1 is a great start to a humongous universe waiting to be explored. In each issue, you can feel the love, sweat, and tears the team put into their work. Although the art and some story beats take inspiration from Mike Mignola and some Hellboy, it stands apart creating its own history in indie comics, and it'll carve out its own slice in your heart and brain, making you crave more of the world.
To make your first comic into such a large shared universe is an insane task. Usually, you'd want to make a quick single issue, or work in an anthology. Instead, the team behind Merrick said, "hell no," and went to create the next Hellboy Universe. That feat alone is an immense one, and I can't help but be excited to read more in the Merrick Universe.
You'll regret not jumping into the Merrick Universe now, as it could very well be the equivalent of a self-published Hellboy Universe in the future.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Doc Dino #1 By Tom Ward, Chris Welsh, Mac Radwanski, Dee Cunniffe, Micah Myers, and Clare Lenton
Hellboy Universe by Mike Mignola
From Hell by Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell
If you like the art:
The Winternational in Annual by Joe Casey, Luke Parker, Brad Simpson, and Sonia Harris
Batman: Broken City by Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Clem Robins, and Patricia Mulvihill
Griff Gristle by Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook & Rory Donald
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Tom Ward – Writer
Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman is Ward's first published comic work
Fan of Punk Rock and was in a few bands growing up
Outlander: Grew up in Liverpool, England
Luke Parker – Illustrator
Joe Casey found Parker's art online and drafted him for work on Annual
Dreamteam: The duo of Ward & Parker is great and needs to be noticed by others that haven't read their work
Worked on some prints for Gametee
Nic J Shaw – Letterer
Prolific: Has done a fair amount of lettering in Indie Comics
Rumor: Ran a successful Kickstarter for his comic, Action Johnson: Actionthology, yet it looks like he may have never sent out the comic. Seems he might've taken the money and ran as all online accounts of his are missing. If anyone can verify one way or the other, we'd be happy to update this bullet.
Outlander: Born in Australia
Clare Lenton – Editor
Freelance Editor and Senior Content Designer
Master's Degree in English literature specializing in Gothic Literature - Not gonna lie, that's pretty damn awesome
Outlander: Also from Liverpool, England
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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Plus, you can download the first issue free on their website! That's awesome!
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