Review by Ian Keogh
When Devlin Waugh was revived by Rory McConville and Mike Dowling, the battling occult investigator with refined sensibilities hadn’t been seen in a decade, and was therefore presumed among the laid to rest. What might otherwise have been his final story ended the 2015 Red Tide collection as his creator John Smith began delving into the possible whereabouts of Waugh family black sheep Freddy, and that’s where McConville picks up.
Smith’s dialogue was slightly sharper, but McConville transmits Waugh’s world-weariness, enabling him to make light of situations that would terrify others, as per the sample page. An essential aspect of his character is that preparation is everything, and he’s almost always one step ahead as far as the bigger picture is concerned, even if occasionally the small details result in a turn for the worse. Over ‘Ship of Fools’ he’s successfully reintroduced and the parameters are well set for further supernatural action.
They weren’t all at their peak, but in the past the series has been drawn by some first rate artists, and Mike Dowling’s pages set up well against them. He shows the panache and vitality so much part of Waugh’s character, as well as his impeccable dress sense, and delivers the sometimes frankly stomach-turning world and brutality of it with a neat pen and ink flourish.
McConville’s second story isn’t as accomplished as the first. Stringing together a series of impossible events and then grinding to a halt is too frothy. Having Waugh accompanied by a disgraced celeb to revitalise his public perception is a neat touch, but that never really comes to much either.
By the time Aleš Kot begins chronicling Waugh’s adventures they’ve been upgraded to adult level. There’s no more innuendo required when Waugh can march into action waving a rather large green phallus around, and by the next story he’s trapped a demon in a pink one. In an ideal world Waugh would use his supernatural jiggery-pokery to merge Kot and McConville into the single writer for the perfect Devlin Waugh. Kot’s plots are weightier, but lose their way, and his attempts at humour rarely hit the mark, being either obvious or forced, while McConville has that down fine and knows all about the straightforward story, but can’t cope with the darkness. However, Dowling makes Kot’s work seem better via eye-catching illustration.
Smith’s Devlin Waugh varied the style and form of the horror, and to Kot’s credit he picks up on that by eventually opening a new door into a locked room murder mystery. However, getting to the point takes an age, and so does getting to the finish. Everything is so decompressed, resulting in even the clever aspects sinking in much that’s ordinary. Still, Smith’s first run at the character wasn’t all it became, so with Kot continuing into The Reckoning the hope is for better.