Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities: Ghastly Fiend of London (#1 – 4) – Eric Powell

3 out of 5

Eric Powell: idea man, funny man, but never the greatest straight writer.  His Billy the Kid work with Kyle Hotz generally has doses of how he functions best – horror dosed with comedy – but when he indulges in too much of the latter, it gets rather juvenile (not just in terms of poop jokes, but just the overall ‘counter-culture is cool’ point of view), and when he tries to do something more sober and serious, it drips with sap and melodrama.

Half of this first full outing for the Oddities (having first appeared in a backup in Buzzard) is fantastic stuff – a campy, carnival-populated murder mystery with a truly unique spin on Jekyl and Hyde that winks H.H. Holmes into the story as well – but there’s seemingly an “And then what??” voice in Powell’s head that encourages him to add more than is needed to his brew, which starts fussing with his story’s pace and really cluttering up the ending with unnecessary twists – requiring a sloppy reveal – and a poorly seeded-in sequel setup which essentially underwhelms the conclusion into non-existence.  This is interestingly echoed by a Goon backup (by Powell) in which Goon and Franky’s BBQ is interrupted by hobos; it’s a strip that starts out Goon-ly goofy and fun, but a sequence of random additions to it pare down the laughter, which is an effect that builds with each successively added element.

But back in the feature, Kyle Hotz’s Kelley Jones-ishly bulbous monstrosities are a highlight, with the artist’s energetic panels and moody shadow work a delight, and Nate Piekos rocking the letters, perfectly placed within Hotz’s page-filling art, and taking advantage of precisely chosen fonts for various characters.

This is definitely still a fun series, and I’m harsher on the latter half than need be, as it’s not bad at all, it’s just a disappointing mish-mash after a great couple of opening issues.