The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson cover image
The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson is a paperback collection of comics produced by writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and artist Bernie Wrightson (Swamp Thing; Captain Sternn). Ostensibly a reprint collection of three comic book miniseries, The Monstrous Collection is a showcase of Wrightson's striking black and white comics artwork. The last 28 pages of The Monstrous Collection is a gallery of Wrightson's art, including cover art for the comic books reprinted here.
The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson collects three miniseries that Niles and Wrightson created over a three-year period beginning in 2008. Each miniseries was three-issues long and set in a dark universe created by Niles, a universe that recalls supernatural detective, weird fiction, and EC Comics (apparently an influence on Wrightson).
The first miniseries is Dead, She Said (3 issues; May to September 2008). It stars private investigator Joe Coogan, who wakes up in his apartment one morning feeling real funky and smelling even funkier. Now, he has to find out who killed him and why, and his killer may be more dangerous than anyone including Coogan realizes.
The second miniseries is The Ghoul (3 issues; November 2009, January to March 2010). Detective Lieutenant Lloyd Klimpt of the Los Angeles Police Department believes he is on to something strange and perhaps criminal in a case involving a family of famous and acclaimed actresses. Being rational, he cannot make the great mental leap from the normal to the paranormal. The FBSI (Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigations) is sending someone who will hopefully help Klimpt make the leap for the dark side to the darker side. He is The Ghoul, and Klimpt has him for one night only.
The final miniseries is Doc Macabre (3 issues; December 2010, January to February 2011). He is a boy genius. His Dexter's Lab is a high-tech playpen that Victor Von Frankenstein would love. He is Doc Macabre, and he loves ghost-busting, but when an angry, naked male ghost busts him down, Doc Macabre will need new tech and some help. The series guest stars Joe Coogan and The Ghoul.
THE LOWDOWN: I am going to give The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson a high grade. One of the reasons I give high grades in comics review is if I like a comic book, trade collection, or graphic novel so much that I wish I could keep reading past the last page. By the time I got to the end section with the art gallery, I could have read another three Steve Niles and Berni Wrightson miniseries.
The summary on the back of The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson calls Niles and Wrightson two horror legends. Wrightson certainly is. I would say that he is the greatest American comic book artist in the genres of horror and dark fantasy, and Wrightson was also quite good at science fiction comic books. In one of the quotes attributed to him, Wrightson says that all he ever wanted to do was draw, and that is clear in every page in this collection – narrative or otherwise.
I have never thought much of the original 30 Days of Night miniseries that rocketed Steve Niles to comic book fame, although I did like the sequel, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. However, I like Dead, She Said, The Ghoul, and Doc Macabre. They are the kind of pulpy, weird, dark fantasy, and horror fiction that turned writers like H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood into legends. So, modern versions of such genres and sub-genres could turn a modern writer into a legend.
Dead, She Said is as witty and as droll as it is ghoulish, kind of like The Maltese Falcon with some of Young Frankenstein's sensibilities. The Ghoul has two characters perfect for a buddy cop team-up, and The Ghoul would be great alone, in a duo, or in a group; this is a character with potential. Doc Macabre is silly and frivolous, but the lead character's absent-minded professor vibe gives it potential.
The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson is a comic book art book that showcases the art of a legend, the late Bernie Wrightson (who died in 2017), but finds the art in the weird imagination of a horror comic book writer.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson will want The Monstrous Collection of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson.