Don't let the weird title fool you, Miskatonic is a cool mix of true crime and horror.

Writer: Mark Sable, Artist: Georgio Pontrelli, Colorist: Pippa Bowland, Letterer: Thomas Mauer, Cover: Jeremy Haun with Nick Filardi.

It’s 1924 in Washington, DC, and J. Edgar Hoover is wasting no time cleaning house, now that he’s been appointed acting director of the FBI.

But one agent isn’t going to be shoved out the door so easily. She’s got dirt on Hoover, and changes his mind quickly. He even gives her a sensitive assignment to investigate and “make go away” a crime in Miskatonic Valley, a bombing linked to a series of domestic terrorist attacks a decade earlier by a group of anarchists calling themselves PLAIN WORDS.

History buffs will realize this story is based on actual events. In April and June 1919, PLAIN WORDS targeted politicians, justice officials, newspaper editors, and prominent businessmen like John Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan with bombs. None reached their intended targets. Each bomb was accompanied by a pink PLAIN WORDS flyer.

Agent Miranda Keller is the fictional agent writer Mark Sable has created to be the protagonist of this series. After putting her sexist, racist boss in his place, she heads to Innsmouth to begin her investigation. I’m pretty sure there weren’t many, if any, women FBI field agents in 1924, but it does put a different and liberated twist on this real crime drama. A fellow agent meets Keller and they begin asking around, starting with an old drunk who talks about a weird point-hatted, green-cloaked fish cult. They don’t believe the ramblings of a crazy old drunk, of course.

Artist Georgio Pontrelli has done his research well, perfectly capturing the fashions of the era, as well as the monotonous cars of the time. However, his style is very simplistic/minimalist and quiet. Yes, this is a crime procedural, and there’s a lot of standing around and talking, but the page layouts are dull. If it weren’t for the amazingly skilled watercolors by Pippa Bowland, this book would look very boring indeed.

But it’s all a ruse, to lull the reader into a false sense of security. The last third of the book is very different, action-filled, and veers away from historical fact and dives into horrific and entertaining Lovecraftian fiction.

That night, while staying over in a local inn, we finally get some excitement. Some thing– or things –in the house are out to get them. The final pages are as bizarre and exciting as the early pages are quiet and dull.

Maybe that old drunk isn’t so crazy after all…

Miskatonic #1 from Aftershock Comics is available November 11, 2020.

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