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Billy The Kidís Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 Comic Review - -

Story 8.5
Art 8.5
Value 7.0
Total 8.0
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 8/9/2010 (US)
Reviewer: Troy Mayes


Billy The Kidís Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1

Kyle Hotz and Eric Powellís Billy the Kidís Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London certainly delivers on the oddities in this first issue while also managing to provide a fresh and rather twisted take on the fiendish Jack the Ripper story. As far as delivering on what the title promises Billy the Kid thoroughly delivers. 

Billy finds himself in London during the 19th Century. The city is gripped by the terror of the Ripper who is tearing his way through the cities prostitutes. Completely unable to fathom the reasons behind why a Ďmaní would commit the Ripperís horrific crimes the papers begin to circulate a theory that deformed freaks are the ones responsible for the crimes. After all they arenít really human are they? Billy just so happens to be friends with one of the few people, Fineas Sproule, who actually views these freaks as people, albeit with some of his own motives behind his view as he operates a Vaudeville show. In his employ are the Elephant Man, a tiny person, a woman whose skin changes and reacts differently and some sort of lizard man. The Elephant Man informs Fineas of the allegations against Londonís deformed and Fineas and Billy (with the promise of cheap women) take the investigation into their own hands.  

The combination of the story and the artwork by Hotz has me completely sucked into this comic. Maybe itís because I just read and watched From Hell and have the Ripper on the brain but I tore through it in a matter of minutes and had to go back over it to fully take everything in. Hotz and Powell, thankfully, donít try to contend with Mooreís brilliant From Hell. Instead they show that the Ripper can be open to more than one comic book adaptation.  

After only one issue Hotz has managed to make me care about the characters and want to know more about them. I want to know what Fineasís deformity is, whether itís physical, mental or psychological. I want to know whether that affects his relationship with his deformed colleagues. I want to believe that heís a good person who is trying to help these people out, but then again I canít get past the money and exploitation angle. I love Hotzís over the top Elephant Man who actually has Elephant like features and a little bit of Beastís (X-men) sophisticated, gentlemanly genius to him. I also want to see where Hotz and Powell go with the Ripper tale and whether it treads familiar lore or completely strikes out on its own. The only downside to the story was the drugging incident. I didnít quite get what happened there and felt Iíd missed some minor detail in the earlier panels leading up to it. It created unnecessary questions that I hope will be addressed in later issues purely for the sake of my obsessive mind that needs the details explained.  

While I was deeply interested in Sproule and the Elephant Man I donít care for Billy at all. I realize that his callous, insulting attitude towards Fineasís deformed freaks/friends has made me sympathize with them more but at the expense of feeling close to the main character. Things were happening to him and I really just wanted to go back to the freaks. Billyís dialogue was solid and invoked that Western feel but it paled in comparison to the brilliantly written Elephant Man. The dialogue gave you the sense that thereís a man behind the Ďmonsterí all you need to do is listen. 

Aside from the superb character designs, seriously the Elephant Man is amazingly odd and disturbing at the same time, and period appropriate attire and facial hair (mutton chops and epic moustaches ahoy) Hotz certainly managed to create a rather depressed and dirty London. The faces in the background often look depressed and are surrounded by smog and drab grey, black and brown buildings. The blood red sky also gives the impression that something sinister is lurking in the shadows and that the city is actually gripped by terror. One thing I wasnít a fan of was the overuse of single color backgrounds. Instead of placing the character amongst a background of buildings, a street, a pub there were many panels where the character was placed in front of a white, red or yellow block color background. Used sparingly this technique is okay but in Billy the Kid it was like a regular unwanted jolt that drew you out of the story and back to reality after you were so close to being fully immersed in the world of the issue.   

With plenty of oddities to justify its name, an interesting take on a wildly known topic and characters you actually want to read more about Billy the Kidís Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 was a great read that has me craving more.  


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