British Paranormal Society: Time out of Mind from Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, and Andrea Mutti has the perfect horror setup and a team that can execute it. Mignola and Chris are no strangers to horror, and this time they introduce us to two members of the British Paranormal Society, Simon and Honora, as they investigate the strange goings-on in a small village called Noxton. On the surface, Noxton seems like an ordinary and quaint little village. However, as we dive deeper with Simon and Honora into unraveling the mysteries, we learn the strange and dark things hiding under the surface.
Simon and Honora belong to the British Paranormal Society, each having their own expertise. Simon is in search of his missing lab assistant, while Honora is here to investigate a peculiar annual festival at Noxton. As they interact further with the locals, secrets begin to unravel that entangle the two subplots, ultimately putting them both in danger. Saying more would spoil the plot, so I will instead focus on two things – the ideas and the execution.
The story wastes no time introducing doubt that not everything about Noxton is as innocent as it appears. Noxton feels particularly inspired by Innsmouth from Lovecraftian tales. The plot even derives inspiration from The Color out of Space. The execution of this sort of story needs a slow burn where the strangeness of the place slowly comes to a boil until the protagonists are faced with the true horror of this place. This is challenging to execute, particularly in comics.
The first challenge is that the user decides the speed of the narrative. Secondly, we need to set the mood as something that seems right but slightly askew and then progressively deteriorate that. Artist Andrea Mutti and colorist Lee Loughridge succeed in doing this in scenes that take place at night and especially in the early pages of the comic. Andrea especially does well in setting the period as the early 1900s. I loved Lee’s colors when they used a limited color palette. However, the line art needed to be rougher and relied more on heavier blacks and texture. The colors in daytime scenes appear too bright and saturated, even in indoor scenes. This makes it difficult to maintain the mood of doom and gloom that would make the setting effective.
The second challenge is creating tense character interactions. However, the interactions are very cliche. There are also no secondary characters set up to have a larger presence throughout the story, which would make it easier to realize the gradual descent. Andrea does great when depicting close-up expressions of characters, and I wish it was done more often to heighten the tension, especially in interactions. On the whole, I feel the creators relied too much on our familiarity with the trope of sinister communities and rituals, which have been enjoying a re-emergence in horror stories recently. The shorthand works in setting up what to expect, but it fails to make us feel that.
Having two mysteries tied to one another and characters with specialized skills is a brilliant idea. It allows the characters to split up and move their subplots forward and bring it all together in the end. The plot does a good job of this, and I look forward to seeing more adventures from these characters as well as any future characters introduced to their team. The only gripe I have is that there needs to be character development for the protagonists. There was the opportunity given they have different enough skill sets and are coming at the mystery with different motivations, Simon’s being personal and Honora’s being goal oriented. However, this can be forgiven, given the short length of the story.
If you are looking for an interesting horror mystery team up with a team that has the chops to deliver, I would recommend following the British Paranormal Society. Ultimately this is a great start to something that can be an interesting team series. I would love to see more unique horror mystery takes on popular pulp stories, and entirely new stories. I am also excited thinking about the future possibilities of tying up with the greater Hellboy and BPRD mythos.