‘The Army of Dr. Moreau #4:’ Comic Book Review

I have always had an interest in the macabre, especially when it comes to the classics.  I was drawn to the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the Hammer horror films of the 1960s, and during Junior High I selected an intriguing book to read and write a paper on, which I had never heard of before, called The Island of Dr. Moreau. The story of a 19th Century doctor who had retreated into a desolate island in order to experiment on mixing human and animal genetics into a new kind of creation, the homo-animalia, seemed deliciously taboo, and the story reeked of danger and high adventure.  Also, it was written by H.G. Wells, and while I knew the writings of H.G. Wells, mainly through old movies and the cultural consciousness, I had not yet read any of his works, so this was the perfect place to start, with this relatively overlooked, dark-hued novel.

Now, all these years later, writer David F. Walker and artist Carl Sciacchitano have picked up where Wells left off, crafting a clever and exciting continuation of the consequences of Dr. Moreau’s experiments, with The Army of Dr. Moreau.  The best part of their storytelling is the presentation of the events from The Island of Dr. Moreau as fact, as they were related in the novel.  Walker and Sciacchitano introduce us to Edward Prentiss, the sole survivor from Moreau’s island, and whose account Wells based his novel on, telling the story from his point of view.  By taking Wells' faux-recounting a step further and making the character from the novel into a character in their story, Walker and Sciacchitano give us access to elements of backstory that come inherently and naturally through Prentiss.  The concept of The Army of Dr. Moreau is a brilliant one: The year is 1939.  Having learned of Moreau’s experiments (the doctor Moreau was based on a French vivisectionist named Moraux), the Germans have descended on his secret island in the South Pacific, intending to use the doctor’s notes to create a new type of super soldier, one without any remorse or mercy, more animal than man.  It is up to a small group of American and British soldiers, along with Prentiss, to uncover and stop the Germans’ nefarious plans.

The Army of Dr. Moreau is a wonderful blend of fiction as fact, in the same vein as Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and with each issue, the story grows more explosive.  Sciacchitano’s art captures a nostalgic feel of old pulp serials and monster movies, and his depiction of the homo-animalia is unique, with a slightly modern flair.  The fourth issue ramps up the action, as the Nazis inhabiting the island have discovered that they are not alone and intend to use Moreau’s homo-animalia that have existed and thrived in secret for their own purposes or destroy them.  Sara Machajewski’s colors shine in this episode, providing lush greens for the jungle and deep shadows where danger and mystery lurk.  As tensions rise between the Beast-folk and the Nazis, and as Prentiss closes in on the violent German soldier Metzger, a quiet change is beginning to manifest itself among the Germans' new animal soldiers that is sure to have ramifications in the near future.  I am excited to see just what Walker and Sciacchitano meant when they titled their book The Army of Dr. Moreau, and I believe they are only getting warmed up, and that the real battle is about to begin.     

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