Elephantmen is often the very definition of a slow-burner, but the book seems to be suffering a little from a lack of focus at the moment. The disagreement between the cover and the title page as to which instalment of the story is contained doesn’t bode well, and the new instinctive appeal of the anthropomorphised section of the cast can’t quite compensate for his creator’s apparently wandering attention.
This issue consists of two parallel conversations, as the Hip Flask begins to suspect that there’s more to his colleague’s apparent return to drink than meets the eye, while Vanity’s attention is gradually drawn to the full extent of Obadah Horn’s empire. It’s the sort of gradual progression that is perfectly suited to a detective-themed series, but a well-plotted issue is partially undone by some mundane execution. Although the main draw of the series is Starking’s scripts, slowly adding new elements coherently into the world that Elephantmen and its parent series have knitted together, this issue seems little under-written in places. The jumps away from Vanity and Simm throughout the issue come at the right points in the story, but still damage the flow of the conversation, and leave the cliff-hanger looking like something of a stretch in story terms. Even granted that the moment in question is supposed to be unexpected, it feels more dictated by the book’s page count than the natural result of the events chronicled.
It’s the little things that grate, such as the way Vanity’s dialogue refers to a pillow case, while she’s drawn displaying a pyjamas holder. Andre Szymanowicz’s art isn’t without its strengths, chiefly his commendable ability to convey expressions, but they don’t quite compensate for some absurdly exaggerated anatomy drawing for the book’s female characters. Elephantmen remains a likeable proposition, but it’s rather difficult to love.