Doctor Crowe (#1 – 4) – Corey Friya

3 out of 5

A worthy addition to the Hellboy model of plug-and-play heroes – drop them into any given set of antics, ‘tude in tow, and let the narration run wild – Doctor Crowe goes down a more exclusively steam-punky / Lovecraftian angle, brought to life in 6-ish page slices by rotating artists per issue. Due to this setup, and writer Corey Friya’s decision to keep each tale a standlone, we get absolutely zero background on the character (or his badass gun-toting partner, Nora), and while the series leans into that cheekily, the way Brian Clevinger used to with Atomic Robo, making any given story a refreshingly brisk read, it also makes things inevitably somewhat samey after a fashion: Doctor Crowe pops into town after an artifact or to still a monster; Doctor Crowe dryly commentates on something; monsters attack and are chopped down.

The artists all appreciably work within a range that keeps our leads and world recognizable, perhaps guided by designs from co-creater / artist Matt Horak, but this, too, gives it a sameiness: it’d be could to see some risks taken with the style, and / or maybe writing more varied stories to map to varied visuals.

But I’m being overly critical when the most important thing holds true, issue by issue: that Doctor Crowe is fun.  Friya’s dialogue is crisp and yet descriptive enough to move us through two handfuls of various supernatural events entertainingly – Crowe and Nora’s banter earns several chuckles – and his imagination is such that there’s no outright repetition of any particular threat or foe, which is impressive, given that we get 12 mini-stories jammed in here.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Crowe return, save a Merrick crossover, but the character’s design and the steampunk spooks setting is begging for more… and maybe more world-building in the same go.