In the world of comics and graphic novels, there are names that immediately garner respect and attention, names that reflect careers of distinguished excellence. One of those names is P. Craig Russell. In this new gallery edition, Dark Horse has collected some of Russell’s most compelling original comics artwork into a short story collection that offers comic fans a remarkable visual retrospective of his illustrious career.
Murder Mysteries and Other Stories is a stunningly beautiful collection, a look back at some of Russell’s most unique and powerful works, including stories by Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, and more. They’re all brought to life by Russell’s artwork, seen here as the original black and white pages without the embellishment of color to distract from the details of his remarkable lines and delicate shading. One piece, “Isolation and Illusion,” is completely silent; the story unfolds entirely through Russell’s art and offers a seductive reminder of the power of the image to convey a story.
The collection reproduces Russell’s original art at full size; the bound volume is larger than most graphic novels at 12 x 17 inches. It truly is a gallery edition, as these pages would not seem out of place hanging on museum walls. Russell’s introduction to the collection provides a short explanation of his experience with each story and its place in the compilation, and this overview helps to provide context for appreciating how each reflects the artist’s professional life and work.
Though the art is the focus of Murder Mysteries, that doesn’t mean the stories are an afterthought. Each story stands alone as a small masterpiece exploring themes of life and death and more, and each offers a different glimpse into the human experience as seen through the union of art and word. Even the two that feature familiar comics characters (The Spirit and Hellboy) do not require knowledge of the character’s canon to be appreciated, which helps to make the collection approachable for readers new to comics or to Russell himself. From the hilarious sight gags of “Art Walk,” a The Spirit story, to O. Henry’s melancholy love story, “The Gift of the Magi,” to the darkness of Clive Barker’s “Human Remains,” the reader is enthralled and engaged with this visual exploration of the universe.
Murder Mysteries is a gift for existing Russell fans, and it serves as a brilliant introduction to the artist for those unfamiliar with his work. Dark Horse rates Murder Mysteries for ages 14+, but it is likely to be most appropriate for adult collections, especially those that include a focus on graphic novel artists. There are some potentially problematic elements that might be challenging in a teen or young adult collection, including nudity, male prostitution, homosexuality, violence, suicide, and child death. A story focusing on a murder in heaven might also be offensive to some readers. Beautiful, accessible, and filled with fascinating tales, Murder Mysteries will be at equally at home in the personal collections of devoted Russell fans and on library shelves to introduce readers to his remarkable oeuvre.
P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mysteries and Other Stories
by P. Craig Russell
Dark Horse, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 14+