February 7, 2013

Review -- STEED AND MRS. PEEL #4

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Steed and Mrs. Peel #4
(Caleb Monroe, Yamin Liang; BOOM!)
Steed and Mrs. Peel # 4 takes up from where issue three left off. Having prevented the Hellfire Club from enslaving Parliament, our plucky couple look forward to a night off from adventure. What better opportunity to unwind than a masked ball held in honor of the author, Llyod Cushing?
And that's where we find our titular characters, off to the masquerade, dressed to nines, looking for a relaxing night of fine food, dancing, and conversation.
But of course, this is Steed and Mrs. Peel, so it can't be just a quiet night of fun frivolity and fabulous festivities. Wouldn't be much of a comic book, would it? Of course not. There must be ACTION! There must be murder most foul and weirdness afoot. 
And so there is.
Monroe and Liang have put together some sort of something in this book that bends without breaking and gaks without wagging. Out of nowhere comes Mr. Blackwell and his Butch Dancers, preeminent in  Butch-Fu, a “mimetic technique” that uses a “series of hypnotic mental images used to affect the nervous system without conscious input.”
You can only try to imagine what this all leads to. Let's just say that Steed and Mrs. Peel have to try out a new dance at this ball.
Steed and Mrs. Peel #4 is a book that should work. It's got so much going for it and yet, it just doesn't quite pull it off. What should swoop only flutters in these pages, and I was left feeling like I had watched a master chef carefully choose choice ingredients to make a  bowl of bland cereal drowned in skim milk.
Liang's art is mostly static and flat, while Monroe's writing seems to try too hard to be witty and urbane. All of this leaves the book with the stench of artifice and undermines its intent. What could have been a wild romp with a bit of polish is, instead, teetering on the verge of hackneyed and foolish. It's readable, certainly, and has moments of possibility, but overall the bowl is full of a soggy mess and it ends up kind of ruining your morning routine.
Oh, and to think, how lovely Mrs. Peel looked in her gown.

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