Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the norm. Let’s put away the battle scars, the new 52s and all the trappings of the Big Two and go back to a simpler time. Moonstone Comics champion that idea with their recent Return Of The Monsters series. This month we get The Phantom Detective vs. Frankenstein, pitting the mystical dark detective against the legendary monster in a mystery involving murder, mayhem and Nazis. It’s the era of the 30s, where gangsters, newspapers, and coppers are all trying to settle into a new world of brick and steel. Wealthy playboy Richard Curtis Van Loom turns his wealth against the underworld as the mysterious Phantom Detective.
What makes these issues work so well is how focused they are on the setting. Writer Aaron Sharps understands the mentality behind comics of the Golden Age and he’s clearly having fun with it. The story is simple; Doctor Frankenstein did not die in the Arctic. Instead, he escaped to America and sired a child. The Nazis, searching for the method of returning the dead to life, are tracking Frankenstein’s grandchild in hopes he’ll hold some of the dark family secrets. Enter the Phantom Detective, who is brought into a murder scene when the cops discover a sinister laboratory beneath it. The Phantom Detective tracks the Nazis down just before they begin torturing Frankenstein’s grandson.
From the depths comes the Frankenstein monster, who has watched over the descendant of his creator all these years. Really, the only rub is that the two never battle, but rather help Frankenstein’s grandson escape to a new life. It’s a quick, fun and easy story that mimic those great monster books of years past. Aaron Sharps even nails the dialog. The Phantom Detective vs. Frankenstein never sounds forced – it never sounds like a modern writer trying to script Golden Age material. I was especially fond of how violent the book was. Old comics were harsh and sometimes the nostalgia for the era leaves that out. Here we get to enjoy the Phantom Detective cutting off heads and stabbing people.
The only modern touch comes with the art, though in a very subtle way. Jay Piscopo clearly takes his cues from the Golden Age. The simple black and white shading, the over-the-top expressions on the characters faces, it’s all very reminiscent of the 30s and 40s. Where Piscopo slips in his modern touch is panel placement. Instead of the Golden Age block paneling, Piscopo throws in some newer ideas. Whole pages being paneled by the smoke from Phantom Detective’s infamous smoke bombs.
At one point and exchange between the cops and the Phantom Detective is highlighted on each page by the head of the man talking with panels describing his story surrounding him. None of the modern work takes away from the Golden Age feel, but it does help make the book more exciting. Here’s to hoping Moonstone Comics never run out of monsters or heroes.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 9/10 (4 Story, 5 Art)