Well, ye olde boyles and ghouls, this is it. The last chapter of the first volume, the last episode of the first season of Shroud’s flagship franchise: Hiram Grange. You know what you know by this point and your opinion of the series is likely already set (God knows I’ve made my own clear enough). The main question at this point is a simple one: Does Nymphs live up to the reputation? Of course it does, this is Hiram we’re talking about.
This isn’t the first time Hiram has found himself in a strange city, beaten near to death and standing between the clueless masses and some hideous force that wants nothing more than to devour them. The problem is that he was sent there to kill someone else. Someone he was told wasn’t a person at all. Someone who has information that will completely shatter his view of the work he does. Oh, and the streets are teeming with legions of hot, naked nymphs who want to kill him with sex…
Where 12 Little Hitlers was driven by Hiram’s chemical addictions, Nymphs is driven by his more carnal proclivities. This presents us with a very creepy, in the old-guy-in-a-van-giving-out-free-candy sort of way, view of him. His usual obsession with Jodie Foster, in Richard Wright’s hands, becomes something filthy and diseased. In general, even when dealing with the life-sucking spirits of penile destruction, he comes across as nothing so much as a smutty letch. Exactly what we’ve come to adore about the slimy little bastard.
What makes this tale particularly interesting is the struggle with his other, less obvious compulsion: his tendency to follow orders without thinking on his own. We’ve already seen, in Hitlers and, to a certain degree, Chosen, the ruin that can come of abject obedience in Hiram’s world, but now he has to make a choice that will decide the direction of his life. In a realm of already murky morality, Wright has dumped him into fog shrouded mire where once-pure intentions are taking on a sinister tinge. He has done a marvelous job of ramping up the consequences here and it makes for a riveting read.
In past reviews, I’ve raved and drooled all over the artwork of Macolm McClinton and the case is certainly no different here. His visions of Dickens and Lovecraft filtered through the lens of David Fincher have become an inextricable part of Hiram lore and the ecstatic writhing of our friend on the cover is gorgeous. Still, there isn’t much more to say about that. However, it is worth mentioning the growing place of the woodcuts by Danny Evarts. Elegant and unobtrusive as they are, they add a subtle level to the effect of the books that is often over looked. The man deserves his due!
If there is any problem with this book, it’s the lack of personality that the others possessed. For good or ill, each previous iteration has come across as integrally tied to the heart and soul of the person who wrote it, melding their own world view and writing quirks into the character and world of Hiram Grange. Nymphs, effortlessly entertaining as it is, doesn’t carry the sense that it could not have been written by anyone other than this specific guy. But, hell, the story should always come before the author and this story is a damn fine one.
In the end, Nymphs of Krakow is precisely what we have come to expect from a Hiram Grange story: snappy, punchy and unafraid to be a bit rough in the sack. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first read for the series, but fans would have no reason to turn away from it.