Explore the Far Reaches of the World with The Dept. of Monsterology
The small press Renegade Arts Entertainment made us a crypto, mystical, antiquarian, and fortean thriller of mythic proportions in Dept. of Monsterology. Creators Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden could mine volumes of stories from the world they built—I hope they do!
Dunsany College is a leader in cryptozoology, mythological studies, parapsychology, and fortean phenomena. The faculty and students travel to the far reaches of everywhere and anywhere examining the things that reside outside most of the regular world’s wildest dreams. But, Dunsany College is not alone. Others, more ruthless than the Dunsany crew, have their eye on these discoveries too no matter what the cost.
Dept. of Monsterology follows various research teams on their expeditions. Here’s the rundown:
Team Challenger is on an oceanographic survey in the South Pacific when we first meet this crew. They find an abyssal trench filled with fish people, grindylow type creature along with some interesting ruins. Associate Fellow Amelia Court, Professor Victor Trondheim, Professor Javier De Tovar, and Professor Emeritus Harry Wilmington opt to take on a new team member in Emma Hampton of the college benefactor, Hampton Foundation. Bringing an inexperienced explorer along on these trips move prove dicey when facing down dinosaurs or escaping an Old One.
Team Carnacki starts out in Budapest on a mission to acquire artifacts using astral projection and psychic connections. They face two Chinese vampires that threaten the life of protégé Samwi. Mister Dominic Belasco, Doctor Michael Calvary, and Doctor Jang Sonam discover the Jiang Shi imprisoned in terracotta statues by the Emperor have been set free. If relic hunters have disturbed the Forbidden Tomb, the world may be at risk. Using remote viewing and a tomb relic, Belasco locates the tomb. The team prepares for its next challenge facing down spirits, the Jiang Shi, and formidable human adversaries.
The Lamont Institute, competitor to Dunsany College, hunts relics without ethical concerns and no sense for preserving heritage sites or species. They are mostly fueled by greed. Jocasta and Sebastian Lamont are body jumpers. They take what they want, relics and people, as leaders of the institute’s hunting trips while their emaciated bodies lie in a controlled environment lab at the Lamont Institute.
Then there is Team Carter. This team disappeared in 1958 on the Yuggoth expedition. The portal to Yuggoth had been sealed, until a descendant of one of the team members activates the portal though his genetic code. Now, fifty-five years later this expedition can start anew.
All the cryptozoologists, Lemuria experts, necronauts, and extra-planetary explorers and their ilk make for interesting reading. Rennie is skilled at keeping the action moving and providing exposition so you get the backstory. The reader is never left out of the loop. Characters are diverse in abilities, expertise, and flaws. Relationships among the teams are varied as well: peers, mentors, teachers, and friends. I like that the reader is dropped into the middle of these characters and their relationships. Rennie shows us the relationships, not tell. It works.
Holden and Denton work team up to create rich environments and sometimes terrifying images with art and colors. Given the dark places these teams go, the art could get muddy. But it stays strong and crisp. Holden depicts mechanical men, creatures, demons, ships, caves, and college offices. There is not a weak spot in four issues.
Dept. of Monsterology is just about perfect for me. I dig the crypto and the mythos themes, and the adventure vignettes. Renegade Arts Entertainment is a small shop. But, I would love to see this being a recurring title for years to come.
Recommendation: Dept. of Monsterology is for readers of classic horror and H.P. Lovecraft. Of course, BPRD similarities can be made. Other titles come to mind though: Witch Doctor, Wake, and Mystery Society.