Though known for his dark, psychological horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe is also considered one of these originators of the modern mystery story with his story “The Murders in Rue Morgue,” so it’s natural to combine these two types of stories into one when doing a fictionalized comic of Poe’s life. I will stress the fictional nature of this comic and warn any who are up on Poe’s biography that what happens here bears little resemblance to Poe’s real life.
But, who cares? If you read “Poe” for pure entertainment and as a celebration of his work rather than having strong ties to his life, you’ll definitely enjoy this debut issue. Set after his wife Virginia’s death, Edgar is in a hospital for the ‘sick,’ trying to write and get over his loss with little success. He also has visions of a young woman hanging herself in his room. This is the first indication that Edgar may have some sort of supernatural connection.
Edgar’s brother, William, a police detective, is forced to care for him when he’s kicked out of the hospital and Edgar is soon assisting his brother in solving a murder case, drawing upon techniques and ideas he wrote about in “The Murders in Rue Morgue.” It’s amusing to see the looked-down-upon Edgar show up a group of police officers by thinking critically about the objects found around the dead man. The interplay between the two brothers is well done with William acting as the dominant one at first, but quickly following Edgar’s lead in pursuing the case.
That said, this ‘amateur helps police solves cases’ plot has been done a lot in the past five years in television, sometimes with supernatural elements to boot. I have to wonder what will set “Poe” apart from these shows aside from the time period and occasional literary reference as neither is enough to do the job completely. It would be one thing if these events fit into Poe’s life without too much effort, but J. Barton Mitchell alters quite a bit to make his story work. These are minor complaints since the overall writing is very entertaining, but still hard to ignore.
Dean Kotz is stunning on art, using a very unfinished pencils-only style that works for the period and tone. A very grounded, simple style that has a dark, spooky feel to it, aided by Digikore Studios’s colors, which are heavy with browns and grays, giving the appearance of a dreary world that matches Edgar’s state of mind. The art seems like a reflection of who he is at the time, only brightening when he becomes engaged in the case.
“Poe” is an entertaining detective story with Edgar Allan Poe at the center, albeit with certain supernatural powers and intuitions. Those looking for a study of Poe’s life won’t find what they’re looking for here, but may want to stick around nonetheless.
(Dean Kotz and Digikore Studios do some very nice work here as you can see in CBR’s preview!)