Archive for Bodies

Murder Times Four



We’ve got a keen little bit of high concept here, a single murder mystery spread out across four different time periods. The writer of the whole thing is Si Spencer, while the illustrators are — one per era — Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick, and Tula Lotay. I considered reading this issue by issue, but decided I’d enjoy it more in a single collected volume.

So we start out in London in 1890, where Jack the Ripper is scaring up headlines, and Inspector Edmond Hillinghead is a dedicated policeman hiding his homosexuality from his fellow officers. And things change drastically when the gruesomely mutilated body of a murdered man is discovered in an alley.

Then we skip forward to London in 1940, while the Germans are bombing the city during the Blitz. Inspector Charles Whiteman escaped from a Nazi concentration camp years ago and is now the crookedest cop in the city. And things change drastically when the exact same gruesomely mutilated body of a murdered man is discovered.

We move on the London in 2014, where Detective Sergeant Shahara Hasan is one of the top cops in the city, Muslim during riots instigated by racist hatemongers — but also fiercely patriotic and proud of her own Englishness. And then the exact same body turns up again.

Finally, we end up in London, 2050, after a high-tech “pulsewave” has destroyed the ability of most people to even think clearly. In the ruins of the city, a woman called Maplewood discovers the gruesomely mutilated body of a murdered man, and like the other detectives from across the decades, feels compelled to investigate.

So what’s the solution? Who’s the victim? Who’s the killer? How was the death replicated across time? Is there any way for these four sleuths to discover the truth? Will they be able to team up? Or will a time-spanning conspiracy destroy all of them — and all of us as well?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of stuff to love in this story. I’m not a fan of all of the art, but it’s a fantastic idea to have a different artist illustrate each era — it makes everything much easier to follow for a story that could’ve been incredibly confusing.

The mystery is, obviously, a huge draw — the sheer ridiculous impossibility of the crime is stunning and terribly difficult to resist. The desire to learn more about what’s going on is entirely overwhelming. And things really do get even better when more conspiracy and horror elements are stirred into the stew. Arcane symbols, ancient paintings, secret societies plotting against everyone, arc words repeated more and more frequently, the impossible made possible, and terror made flesh. And, of course, the end of the world. Is the fourfold murder a crime? A symbol? A warning? A culprit? Or is it a solution all on its own?

The book’s primary weakness — like too many long mystery stories — is the ending, which dives headlong into mind-trippy symbolism and British boosterism while failing to really explain much of anything. But the ride up to that point is solidly E-ticket all the way. Actually, I’ve gotten to where I mostly ignore the ending the book chose and invent my own that keeps me happier.

But however you feel about the ending, I think this comic was a grand amount of fun. Go pick it up.

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