graphic novel review : Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse Vol 1 – 3

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse Vol 1 – 3
Written and Illustrated by Ben Templesmith

reviewd by : EJTower

There is a story told by The Prince of Denmark in Hamlet about the progression of a King through the guts of a beggar.  The central figure of this story is a worm, and is often overlooked as being merely metaphorical.  It’s a drawn out story performed in iambic pentameter, so I won’t bother but to quote a line or two from it for this, my review of Ben Templesmith’s Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse series.

“Your worm,” tells Prince Hamlet, “is your only emperor for diet… we fat ourselves for maggots.  Your fat king and your lean beggar is but a variable service – two dishes, but to one table.  That’s the end.”

You should also know that there is a poem by Edgar Allen Poe called The Conqueror Worm. In this poem the angels lament the inevitable end of the human play, which always culminates, tragically, in the fangs of the conqueror worm that feeds upon our flesh after death.

All of this I offer to you as literary evidence!  Think of it as background, establishing the historicity of a character.  All of it so that when I tell you that Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is about an immortal magical maggot that battles demons, enjoys beer, hangs out in a seedy strip club, and is protected by a clockwork bodyguard that is rather sad because he was built without genitalia – You won’t immediately shout, Ludicrous!  You must give this a chance.

The Wormwood series is written with the humor and hectic abandon seen in the work of people like Jhonen Vasquez, author of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.   The main character, Wormwood, is an immortal magical maggot that has been protecting the world from the encroachment of extra-dimensional invasions since before, “you sick deviants discovered you could milk cows!”  He is aided, in his often self-absorbed missions to save the world, by a clockwork man of his own creation named Mr. Pendulum; the ghost of a police detective, whose corpse he walks about inside of; a punkish assassin named Phoebe; and finally, Medusa, the madam of a seedy strip club, whose dancers guard a dimensional gateway.

The art of Mr. Templesmith, although award winning, required some getting used to on my part.  But once my brain fell into the Ralph Stedman like, fear-and-loathing vibe, I began to see the real genius of his illustrations.  The seemingly simplistic backgrounds lend a great deal to the mood, and allow him to focus the point of our attention like a spotlight on a stage.  In this way his art tells the story directly and allows the story to progress quickly, humorously, and without forcing you to flip back for missed details.

In reading this three volume series from IDW Publishing, you will be treated to an unpredictable procession of tentacle things bursting out from the gooey cores of human husks, drunken horney leprechauns, and a mechanized battlesuit powered by the brainwaves of cloned necrotic Einstein fetuses.  In short, you will have absolutely no idea what is coming next.  And, I say, Thank you for that!  Nothing is more tragic than predictability in a storyteller.

No, instead, you will be laughing, turning pages, and forgetting all about Shakespeare and Poe.  Good.  You didn’t need to know about them anyway.  Now, go give your money to Mr. Templesmith, he deserves it!

overall  8  . story 9  .  art  8

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