Writer: Kenneth Lillie-Paetz
Artist: Mark Sparacio, Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colors)
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
The best way to describe Elsinore to someone is to say that it is like an early Clive Barker novel on crack. Man, there are some messed up events going on at this mental hospital, and a lot of this craziness is by the doctors in charge. If I wanted to show another reader one page to sum up this series so far, it would be page 11: a ritualistic scene with a dead human body suspended by chains above a pentagram painted in blood. Can anybody say “The Hellbound Heart?” Above this panel are two faces filled with shock, two administrators with almost no reaction, and a patient who is awed and humored by the sight. But, the most shocking revelation on this page is that the supposed protagonist of this title, Dr. Murchison, is the perpetrator of this sick and, yes, insane act. I know we’ve seen other stories in our lives where the keeper of the crazy becomes just as crazy as his patients (Arkham Asylum comes to mind), but this is a story much deeper and demented than those other stories. Kenneth Lillie-Paetz should be proud of what he’s accomplished here, but he also might want to turn down the weird gas every once in awhile. Otherwise, things become a muddled, bloody mess.
I know this is a review for Issue #5, but I have to go back to Issue #4 to prove my point about Lillie-Paetz’s writing. In that issue, which had about a million artists illustrating it (Okay, 9. But still a lot!), Lillie-Paetz puts together about a million horrific, surreal ideas into one issue, and the only thought I could think of as I finished was, “What the heck did I just read?” Issues don’t get much messier than Issue #4, and I’m not talking about the bloodiness. I determined I probably wouldn’t return to Elsinore despite the originality of Lillie-Paetz’s ideas. Boy, I’m glad I gave it one more shot! Issue #5 is far, far clearer than the other issues I have read so far. Though still without a character I can support, I at least can see where the story is going and where we have already been. It’s a finely crafted tale that works more with the mood created than with the intricate arcane topics. Do the characters look or feel like anyone I know in my real life? God no, but each represents a mood or a feeling that is exercised beautifully by Lillie-Paetz, like pieces in the Game of Life if it was played in Hell. Plus, the ending is deliciously twisted and satisfying, even for a hopeless romantic like myself. Those monkeys are nightmarish!
The monkeys’ terrifying appearance is due to the art by Mark Sparacio, which is fan-bleeping-tastic! I’ve got to say that his realistic portrayal of events and people creeped me out just as much as the story. Close-ups of blood-shot eyes, faux orgiastic scenes of debauchery, and attacks by hordes of killer apes are all given equal play here, and all of these scenes look wonderfully macabre. Why haven’t I seen his work before now? This is an artist with a lot of talent and a knack for making an insane premise look perfectly natural. Every panel has a ton of detail, and I really loved flipping through the whole issue. Oh, one final rave: the two page spread with the puzzle pieces and the members of Murchison’s group within those pieces was superbly rendered and makes for memorable splash pages.
Am I recommending Elsinore? I would say yes, barring those with weak stomachs, hero fetishes, or strong religious beliefs. All others should apply. One final note, though: Murchison’s narration, which appears as hand-written notes, is insanely (no pun intended) hard to read. I found I had to put the issue under direct light at times just to see what a particular word said. I know Marshall Dillon is looking to further the mood of this creepy issue with this lettering, but there needs to be some practicality in his approach as well. I thing I need: a new eyeglass prescription after reading Issue #5!
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