Review by Frank Plowright
Police Inspector Harry Absalom has a unique role as protector of 16th century accords drawn up between humanity and the demonic realms, accords that have been maintained for five hundred years. His terminal cancer is kept at bay via magical properties as long as he’s in the job and it’s seen early in Ghosts of London that his physical capabilities belie his frail and aged form.
Absalom was introduced in Caballistics Inc., the surviving members having a brief cameo here, but while that was a horror series of varied moods, Absalom follows a narrower path as a straightforward shit-kicker of the demonic. The earlier Absalom was charismatic, but a bit player in a larger picture. Here he flourishes into a man of action as Gordon Rennie channels 1970s cop shows, with Absalom embodying that decade’s TV cop traits of brutality and offensiveness combined with loyalty, and little time for a long list of types falling foul of his standards. Rennie also expands on the demonic accords, a consequence of which were arranged marriage introducing some new ingredients to Britain’s blue bloods, and he’s scathing about the upper class sense of entitlement and superiority.
In earlier appearances Absalom resembled a stunted and grizzled Albert Einstein, but Tiernen Trevallion’s artistic interpretation modifies the design into something more suited to the life led. He remains grizzled, his habit of constantly swigging laudanum taking its toll, but he’s taller, thinner and straighter, and as Trevallion becomes more used to him Absalom becomes ever more wrinkly and arthritic. He’s a fine construction, drawing attention away from Trevallion not being as capable when it comes to more traditional looking people, who’re all square heads and pinched faces. Give him a monster to create, though, and Trevallion delivers great designs, from Mister Critch onward. He also puts the effort into the scenery and locations, which require a fair bit of research.
A sardonic personality carries Absalom a long way, although a lot of the cultural references are going to date very quickly, but it’s not until the title strip at the end that Rennie hits real form. The ghosts are relics from London’s past, of all eras. With a rich history to choose from, Rennie is selective with the murderous thugs and general ne’erdowells who manifest, and he combines the threat with some backstory about Absalom’s department. It’s funny and imaginative, and as Rennie’s form of plotting involves considerable foreshadowing, we have a couple of mysteries taking us into Under A False Flag.