Dr. Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice GN was published by Arcana Studio. It comes from the creative team of writer Bruce Brown, artist Thomas Boatwright, and letterer Erik Hendrix.
The story opens with an introduction. The narrator, Elizabeth “Lizzy” West, speaks of her life growing up with her brother Herbert. Lizzy details the years of travel that the two endured due to Herbert’s tendency to get them run out of town. This introduction is cut short by the emergence of the walking dead, much to Lizzy’s panic. The scene shifts to three weeks prior as the two are roaming the town market. After a strange event leads to young Herbert becoming the town doctor, everything seems to be looking up for the Wests. But when the new occupation leads to boredom, Herbert begins a dangerous new experiment. One that could doom the Wests if not the entire world.
Dr. Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice GN is a strange book. It is clearly written and illustrated for children, but based on characters and featuring events that are particularly adult-oriented. To his credit, Brown’s script is an entertaining read and is well written. Herbert is pompous and Lizzy is down to earth. The recurring jokes, such as Herbert having to explain everything in simple terms, are charming. It is somewhat difficult to determine who, exactly, this story is for though. The jokes and comedic beats range from juvenile to more mature without ever really settling in one place. Herbert’s enhanced language never lets up, and it would be easy to imagine younger readers getting confused by this.
On the other hand, the art is gorgeous. It feels stylized as if a blend of early 2000s cartoons but much more detailed. Boatwright’s balance of the adult subject matter with what is appropriate for the younger target audience is superb. The walking dead look appropriately menacing, but not gory or overly gross. Though it does all still feel strangely out of place in a children’s story. Likewise the letters from Hendrix are solid. Using different coloring for the narration to signify past vs. present is a smart touch. Additionally, the SFX lettering is well implemented and has a really strong presence.
It is worth mentioning that in the opening pages the author uses a slur against the Romani people. It is clearly intended to be used as period-accurate and never used again. Despite this, it is the responsibility of authors not to use language that is deemed offensive by communities when other language is just as readily available.
With that said, I come away from Dr. Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice GN with extremely mixed feelings. The writing and art are charming but feels like it lacks a definite grasp of its target audience. It feels more geared towards younger millennials who are nostalgic for shows like Invader Zim. The art, while lovely, matches this but does a better job keeping things kid-friendly. If it were a little more focused I would love to recommend it to younger readers interested in horror. But as it stands I think it’s best geared towards folks who are already Lovecraft fans.
Dr. Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice is available now.
Dr. Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice
The writing and art are charming but feels like it lacks a definite grasp of it’s target audience.