24th Nov2017

‘Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Cynthia Von Buhler | Art by Cynthia Von Buhler | Published by Titan Comics

Minky-Woodcock-Cover-A

Sometimes we pick up books and comics because they feature favourite characters of ours, or they feature writers and/or artists that we like a lot. That’s my normal practice, though of course as a reviewer I probably see a wider range that most. Occasionally though a title alone will intrigue enough to pick up a book and check it out, and that’s what happened with this book. We’ve all heard of Houdini right, so that’s a draw right there, it’s published by Hard Case Crime/Titan which is another plus, and there’s a very nice cover with a thumbs up from Neil Gaiman no less. A little look up about writer/ artist Cynthia von Buhler was also pretty intriguing. Check her out, you won’t be disappointed.

First thing to point out before we get going is that this story is inspired by a true story, that is the strange death of Harry Houdini on Halloween 1926. A huge amount of type has been devoted to this, so I’m hoping von Buhler can bring a fresh slant to proceedings. So, let’s meet Minky Woodcock, who, apart from having a fabulous name, is not very happy with her lot in life. Although she gets to hobnob with the likes of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, her private investigator father, Benedick Woodcock, will only let her be his secretary and not an actual investigator herself. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes to the agency with a case, and Minky’s father is away, she decides to be a little creative with the truth and take the case herself.

Sir Arthur wants Harry Houdini investigated, as he believes he is not just an illusionist, but a spiritual medium, his shows are just too good for him not to be. Minky is clearly a little unsure, so Sir Arthur invited her to see a genuine séance held by a medium, Margery of Boston. Margery is famous for conducting said séances in the nude, to allow ectoplasm to manifest from, ahem, ‘her orifices’. Strange how she’s so popular…As the séance begins, Minky soon realises it’s all fake, though the other people refuse to disbelieve. She tells Sir Arthur she cannot take the case. She also learns the dislike for Houdini comes from all the spiritualist community, as he has been debunking and disproving what they do. She also gets a lead on where he hangs out.

So, all fake then. Or is it. Just before leaving Minky is accosted by Margery, who seems to be channeling Minky’s mother’s spirit. Her mother it seems worked with her father but died somehow. A shaken Minky leaves, and goes to the speakeasy where Harry hangs out. He’s not there, but his wife is. Bess Houdini is a bit fed up with Harry, she’s just had to fire another assistant as she thinks Harry was getting a little too friendly with her. Minky introduces herself as a private investigator, and before you know it, she’s been appointed by Bess as Harry’s new assistant. Well that’s an interesting development.

This was a really good first issue. Every page is positively dripping with 1920′s atmosphere, with the art and colouring really giving depth to this world. It’s a world that seems familiar, peopled as it is by real life characters, and one that seems not too long ago. Although the difficult first issue is mainly to set the scene and establish the characters, von Buhler not only does that but also gives us a pretty decent yarn straight away. The dialogue throughout is nicely written of course, very pulp novel in style, but it is the art that really shines. This is a book that could quite easily have been published by DC Comics Vertigo imprint a few years ago. Great debut for what looks like being a great book, and one with amazing multiple covers too.

While resisting the urge to say ‘Buhler, Buhler’ (fans of a certain 80′s film will get it), I will say Cynthia von Buhler has hit the ground running with a lovely slice of 1920′s mystery, and a book that has cult hit written all over it.

****½  4.5/5

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