Thursday, September 27, 2012

Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries

Never let it be said that Neil Gaiman isn'w willing to tackle the big picture in a small setting.  Well, I don't know who would say that, really.  The Sandman did it often enough, as well as just going whole hog into the grand story.

Unlike The Sandman, Murder Mysteries wasn't created as a comic book. It started as a short story sans pictures, as well as being a radio play.  Fortunately for us, P Craig Russell adapted it to the comic book form and Dark Horse Books published it in 2002.  I happened across it at a sale, and here we are.

The Sandman stories that Gaiman did quickly come to mind because the majority of the cast is the same sort of sexless angels that he used in several of his stories in The Sandman.  This time an angel named Raguel is telling a story to a young Englishman on a bench in LA.  It's the story of the first murder.  Not Cain and Abel.  The victim is an angel named Carasel.  Raguel was charged with discovering who killed Carasel and exacting justice on the perpetrator.

Much of the story is standard detective fare as Carasel tracks down the killer.  It has the noir element of compromise, too.  Neither Raguel or Lucifer are happy with the resolution of the matter.  The great philosophical contradictions of an omnipotent and omnipresent deity are confronted, the seeds of Lucifer's dissatisfaction that will lead to the Fall are sown.

All of this ties into the young Englishman and his own actions.  Whatever he's done is never stated directly but it's not so oblique that a reader can't surmise what's happened.  Depending on one's perspective, the end implies justice done or a perpetrator escaped, in keeping with the ambiguities of a deities opaque moral code and actions to enforce it.  It's not a story from The Sandman, but it feels like it could be.

This is very much a typical Gaiman story where he presents a situation that's engaging and intriguing, includes some deep questions, and leaves the reader to bring his own perspective to what's occurred and what it means.  If you're a fan of Gaiman, as I am, you'll enjoy this very much.  And if you're a fan of P Craig Russell's great art, you won't be disappointed, either.  There's not much to say about Russells' work.  It's the wonderful quality of work that he always brings to the show.  He captures detail in small panels and dramatic grandiosity in the large.

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