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The Victorian #14
Act Three: Self-Estrangement
writer: Len Wein
artists: Claude St. Aubin and Mostafa Moussa

When Penny-Farthing Press first appeared on the scene, it was to launch a quirky, quasi-superhero tale called The Victorian. Within the industry, it seems to have caught a lot of attention. The book has attracted some extremely talented (though perhaps fallen from fan favor) writers and artists to tell creator Trainor Houghton's story, the first two "acts" of which have been collected in trade paperback form. And this week, the third act begins, with a new artist and a bold cover by the great Neal Adams.

I'll admit that when the book first came out, I somehow got the impression that it was a strange riff on the Superman mythos set in the 19th Century. How this happened remains a mystery, because I couldn't have been more wrong.

Instead, the seemingly super-powered "Victorian" preys on criminals in modern-day New Orleans, injecting them with a serum that forces them to turn themselves in and confess their crimes. (Doc Savage almost had it right…) But this mysterious figure is only one small part of a vast tapestry of strange doings in the French Quarter and beyond. The story involves voodoo, H.P. Lovecraft, a 19th Century secret order, finances, and the real-life destruction of the submarine U.S.S. Thresher in 1963. And somewhere back in Kennedy's Camelot, another Victorian roamed Dallas.

What's the connection? All in due time.

If it sounds too complex, well, it may be. But it's also as intricate and cool as the ominous clockwork toys that also have something to do with the whole picture.

Issue #14, released this month, does a decent job of recapping for new readers. Still, there are revelations made here that will have dull impact for someone unfamiliar with the story. Luckily, so much of the mysteries remain that it still makes an entertaining read.

Be warned that the actual appearance of The Victorian is almost comical, but it fits the slightly steampunk vibe of its origins. This is no comedy.

Give it time and explore this world. Wein spends a lot of time on characterization, fully realizing his cast. It may make the story move a little slower (fourteen issues to reveal the identity of the title character seems extreme), but it does, after all, take place in The Big Easy. Things happen at a different pace there. Every detail is worth lingering over.

Artists St. Aubin and Moussa do a nice job with their end of the story, too, but I'll admit I preferred the slightly quirkier work of Jim Baikie in the Second Act. If there is a purpose to changing artists with each act, it's not immediately clear, but so long as the art remains decent, it's a very minor distraction.

My recommendation? Pick this one up, and then find the trade paperbacks. You will be able to run with this issue, but there's a lot of richness to what has come before.

The Victorian #14:

The Victorian as a series so far:

Derek McCaw

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