“Drumhellar” is a weird piece of comics work. Riley Rossmo steps out on the edge, crafting something that’s too weird for its own good. One thing piles up on top of another, and the final result is a disjointed walk into weirdness, not a story or a cohesive narrative. There are enough moments that make it worth reading, but the initial review can’t help but be cynical.
Drum Hellar is evidently a supernatural detective. He starts the issue off in a bathrobe, holding a golf club in the air and pulling a peacock out of the ground for — well, for some reason. His sidekick is a purple ghost who talks to him from inside a bag of golf clubs. Hellar has a bad history with his girlfriends, one of whom he seeks help from in this issue. They share an ex-girlfriend who’s also a werewolf.
As frustrating and unfocused a read as this first issue is, it isn’t without its charms. Hellar is likable. The dialogue between him and the ex-girlfriend, Padma, is a lot of fun. (Alex Link gets a “script” credit over Rossmo’s “story” credit, so let’s give Link credit for the that.) Their relationship is an odd one that could go either way, and that tension makes for the best parts of the book. The weirdness of the book leads to strong visuals and a certain quirkiness, but because it doesn’t all fit together in any logical way, it feels like wasted pages.
It is possible that the fault in this issue is that it is only the first part of a larger story. The book gets two and a half stars in this review just for that possibility. It’s not a complete story in this first issue, which might have benefited it. There are enough loose ends laying about to make the second issue a curiosity. If the fault of the first lay in its introductory nature and not of a scattered plot, then the book can easily improve in the months ahead.
Rossmo’s artwork is a lot of fun, feeling a bit here like “Chew” artist Rob Guillory’s work in layout and color selection. The stylistic tic of using the dotted shading works well, like something out of a comic decades ago. It’s a mechanical presence in an organic piece of art, but it works well. It helps define the book, in addition to Rossmo’s natural style with humans and strange creatures. His colors are bright and punchy, helping sell the art and not hide it.
“Drumhellar” is a bit of a missed first effort. There’s potential in it, though, and that’ll be enough to bring me back for more next month. I want to see evidence of a game plan and some kind of focus in that issue to convince me to stick with it.