Tales From the Black Museum vol. 1 – Various

2 out of 5

Tales From the Black Museum really should be a slam dunk – a Tales From the Crypt-ish one-shot strip within the covers of 2000 AD, as hosted by zombie / guide Henry Dubble – but there’s a disconnect that seems passed around in these initial outings, whether between the artist / writer match-up, or what the general tone and focus of such horror strips should be. Not that there’s a mandate that things should always be scary, or always be darkly humored, however, some of the writers can’t seem to decide at all, leaving their offerings in a weird, completely unfocused limbo, where the “punchline” (whether grim or silly) falls well before the conclusion, making their last page or last few panels rattle off with a whimper. Elsewhere, some entries are just trying to do too much, without recognizing that Tales isn’t exactly a Future Shock setup that can allow for full-on world building within a few pages, but is instead meant to take place within the Dreddverse; that is, there’s some half-stepping in terms of how much to lean on existing lore, which again often disturbs the focus. Lastly, not everyone was born for black and white sequential art, starting right from the top with John Wagner’s introductory strip – showing us how Dubble came to be the “guide” of the Mega City-1 museum of crimes and killers, the Black Museum – as Shaun Thomas’ digital art just does not have the animation or clarity to carry the story, which sucks for an opener.

Some writers do hit it out of the park, though – Dan Abnett; John Smith; Al Ewing, who, in particular, starts to own the later strips when it feels like a better formula is established – and while some of the art may not be the greatest fit, I would say it’s all very visually interesting, and occasionally perfect, as synced up to the scripts. At the very least, there’s tons of creativity here, meaning that even when a fair amount of these fail, they at least fail on some wild, flailing swings.

Currently available digitally only.