"Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland" #1 has a ridiculously long (and rather fantastic) name for a comic. It also has a new creative team; with John Arcudi and Mike Mignola focusing on some other projects, Kim Newman and Maura McHugh have stepped on board to write this mini-series, with "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" artist Tyler Crook joining the duo. It's an interesting start, and there's a lot of potential in where it will go forward. But for now, it feels like Crook is performing the heavy lifting.
The vast majority of "Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland" #1 is setting up what's still to come. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first comic outing for both Newman and McHugh (better known for their work in prose), and it feels like they've structured this mini-series like a novel. As a collected form, that's not a problem at all. The pacing there can start out slow, and draw you into the overall story given enough time. As the first part of a serialized story, though, it runs the risk of boring the reader. If they don't have the entire completed work in front of them, there isn't necessarily enough to make them buy issue #2.
That's not to say that Newman and McHugh don't try. There's an attack on Sir Edward around the two-thirds mark that certainly livens up the story a bit, after all. But there's still no denying that it just plods along up until that point. Part of the problem is that Sir Edward Grey is a character who still doesn't feel that interesting in his own right; what seems to define him more is the situation he gets into. Unlike a character like Hellboy, though, he's not quite defined or interesting enough to carry a story solely by his presence.
On the other hand, Crook's art is amazing. The fight with the serpentine creature is amazing, its many heads whipping and churning through the room. You get the impression right off the bat on how badly matched Sir Edward is against his foe, and the amount of mortal danger that he's in. When Sir Edward is knocked across the room, you can almost feel the impact as his body is flung backwards. Then again, even something as simple as Sir Edward's eyes widening in surprise when a reflection talks to him is handled well here; Crook's great with body language and this issue is no exception.
Even better, there's an amazing two-page sequence where we see the inner thoughts of Constable George Lawless, and his theories on what's going on. Crook draws it in a completely different style; it's akin to art that you'd see in a newspaper back in the late 19th century and it looks marvelous. (Modern readers will almost certainly recognize it as the same style that Tony Millionaire uses for his "Maakies" and "Sock Monkey" comics.) It's brilliantly executed, and it's the high point of the comic as Crook exercises his artistic chops.
"Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland" #1 isn't bad, but it needs some spring to its step that is currently vacant. Now that Sir Edward is determined to discover the mysteries of Unland, hopefully we'll see things pick up a bit. For now, not a great start, but there's potential for improvement.