Stefan Petrucha (writer) and Trevor von Eeden (illustrator),
Kolchak, The Night Stalker: The Devil in the Details (Moonstone Books, 2003)

"My first thought was that my journalistic integrity was about to be compromised by a beautiful woman. I honestly don't remember my second thought."

Carl Kolchak

If one can overlook the slack quality of proofreading (a self-described "baseball fan" who can't spell Lou Gehrig?) in The Devil in the Details, the fifth installment in the graphic novel series based on the 1970s television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker (itself inspired by two TV movies), the anachronisms would still be enough to see that this particular issue, at least, smells of amateurism.

I suppose that writer Stefan Petrucha is mostly to blame for placing 1970s news reporter Kolchak in a world that is aware of the World Trade Center attacks, cell phones, and e-mail without aging him at all. This shows a remarkable lack of respect for a character and his world, especially from one who — according to the promotional materials — "considers the original Night Stalker TV movie the best vampire film of all time." But that's comparing apples and mud, considering that the movie and its sequel were scripted by the legendary Richard Matheson and that this comic was written by a man whose most prominent credit is writing other comics. X-Files comics, no less. Of which Kolchak is a well-documented inspiration. It makes me wonder if the man has written an original word in his career. Anyone with any sense of history can tell you that the rip-off can never compare to its predecessor in any conceivable terms.

But that aside, if one can manage to take this graphic novel on its own terms, The Devil in the Details (whose title I could find no reference to in the story) is a solid thriller. A couple of strange murders, involving people who have seemingly dissolved, lead our intrepid hero to the lab of one Barry Fredersen, technical genius and ALS sufferer, who is using "nanorobots" to draw the DNA of his close relatives in order to reconstruct his own and heal himself.

Petrucha does capture the tone and style of the television show very well — including the use of "voiceover" narration — and seems to understand the motivations of the character. (I was able to do a little current research, as several of the episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker are in rotation on the Sci-Fi Channel.) He also inserts several moments of comic relief as Kolchak's editor, Anthony Vincenzo, tries in vain to put together a toy robot for his nephew. Every time Kolchak comes into the office, Vincenzo has someone else helping him with it.

The art of Trevor von Eeden makes Devil an almost cinematic ride (with one impressive two-page spread, in particular). Von Eeden captures the crotchety and jaded look of the TV Kolchak without resorting to a simple reproduction of actor Darren McGavin. Unfortunately, as Moonstone has chosen to send out their review copy in electronic format, this is not an easy opinion to state as any attempt to focus on details results in severe pixelation of the image.

Personally, if I were going to send out a review copy, I would want it to be as close to the commercially available copy as possible. But in the promotional materials for Devil in the Details, there are credits for "colors" and "cover art," both of which were absent in my PDF copy (unless black and white are considered colors). I've done my best to overcome this handicap, but keep in mind that the graphic novel available for purchase is markedly different from the one I'm reviewing, in appearance if not in content.

For those willing to take the risk, Kolchak: The Devil in the Details is a pleasant thriller that in some ways outdoes some episodes of the series. Anachronisms aside, Petrucha and von Eeden have produced a quality product that does right by its source ... almost.

[Craig Clarke]

Find Kolchak graphic novels at Moonstone Books.