Alternate steampunk histories are awesome. Alternate steampunk histories where ghosts and demons are a matter of course are even better. But if this story is in comic book format? Perfection.
Allow me to introduce you to one of my new favorite (non-superhero) comic books: Boston Metaphysical Society by Madeleine Holly-Rosing. So far there are 6 issues out, so I’ll be reviewing this 6-issue arc today and then I’ll spend the rest of my time waiting for the next comic to be released.
Harry Houdini. Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Nikola Tesla.
What do these four men have in common? They were all leading men in their fields of work. Three of them were brilliant scientists (four, if you count illusions and stunt performances as a science, which you very well could).
They were also founders of BETH, a secret scientific organization dealing in the metaphysical.
What, you didn’t know about that last one? Of course not. That’s what makes it a secret organization.
Lucky for you, I’m one of the people who know about this organization and I’m kind enough to share the secret with you. Ready to hear it? Good. Here we go:
Boston, 1895. The Great Houses hold an inordinate amount of power over the economy and society of America. Steam powered machinery is the main source of technology. Spirit and demons wander the streets.
Samuel Hunter, an ex-Pinkerton detective, has dedicated his life to hunting down and destroying supernatural forces. When his spirit photographer is killed by a malignant spirit, the photographer’s daughter, Caitlin O’Sullivan, tries to take her father’s place as Hunter’s employee. But this is dangerous work, not suitable for women. In fact, not suitable for almost anybody.
But Caitlin needs the money. Besides, she’s a medium and a good photographer. With her determination and skill, she soon worms her way into Samuel Hunter’s work, only to find that there is more going on in the Boston supernatural world than she had suspected.
The Shifter is on the lose: an evil spirit that is drawn to bloodshed and chaos. BETH, a scientific organization headed by Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini, are out to catch this Shifter.
Hunter is, too. It would make sense to work together, but Hunter’s friend and coworker is Granville Woods, a brilliant scientist who is not only African-American, but also at odds with Edison.
But somebody needs to catch the Shifter before people are hurt. It might be BETH, it might be Hunter, Woods, and O’Sullivan. There are many experimental techniques to catching this supernatural force, some less scrupulous than others. And with several of these scientists working to destroy the Shifter for ulterior motives, it soon becomes apparent that perhaps battling supernatural forces isn’t the largest problem out there.
Is there something strange in your neighborhood? Who you gonna call? Well, if I ever find myself in the late 1800’s, I’m certainly going to call Samuel Hunter and Co.
If you’re looking for an original storyline, then this is it. Boston Metaphysical Society has a plot unlike any I’ve seen: Mixing steampunk with history and the supernatural? Good idea. But also diving into character building and explaining the social constraints of that time period? Brilliant.
But before I get into any of that, I need to mention the artwork: I really enjoyed the color palette: lots of browns and reds, slightly muted, but with some brighter colors here and there. It matched the steampunk style of the story. Round of applause for the colorists: Gloria Caeli and Fahriza Kamaputra. Emily Hu, the artist, did an excellent job as well. The characters each had distinct features and the action sequences were easy to follow. The Victorian-type backdrop was a pleasure to look at. Overall, stellar job.
Speaking of Victorian-type backdrops, allow me to smoothly segue into another part of this series that I really enjoyed: The world-building. The science of metaphysical hunting was intriguing and well explained. And the steampunk side of things delighted me, like the times where I’d see something cool in the background, like steam-driven carriages and interesting steampunk outfits.
But my favorite part of the world building was the way class distinction was woven into the story. There were a lot of subtle things, like Houdini not bowing to Granville because Granville is black or Caitlin calling everyone “sir” because she’s poor and they are of a higher class. It lent a realism and tension to the story that I really appreciated.
This is one of those interesting comic books that is driven by both plot and characters, each holding up and pushing along the story evenly. On one hand, you have the problem of supernatural forces that need to be taken care of. On the other side of things, you have the fact that a few of the characters are fighting the supernatural out of ego, guilt, or a need to prove themselves.
Any of you who follow me on Goodreads probably noticed me jumping back and forth from cheering on Caitlin, Granville, and Hunter. This is the type of story where you just can’t help rooting for certain characters. Specifically Caitlin, what with her strong personality and Irish accent.
Holly-Rosing has a talent for plot pacing, character development, world building, and unique storylines. That is a type of impressive you don’t come across in every book…or even most books.
Boston Metaphysical Society is a comic book that I can highly recommend to you, even without knowing anything about you. It has action, it has science, it has history, it has great characters, it has solid artwork. Exactly what else could you need? Nothing. So go read this series.
So far there are 6 issues to read, which you can get here. You could also find the Kindle versions here. Also, it should be noted that you need to be following the Boston Metaphysical Society facebook page, because it has good information on the comics, as well as ocassional pictures of cosplayers, cool libraries, and steampunk dragons. Obviously all things you need in your life.
Have you read this series? Well, why not? Time to get started! And don’t forget to leave your thoughts below!