New Orleans is home to many heroes and do-gooders in the Silverline Universe. In The Mantus Files, we learn that the Crescent City is also the home of things that go bump in the night, ghoulish conspiracies, and the handful of characters that are about to get tangled up in it all.
This four-issue mini-series, originally published in 1991, is set in the familiar city but explores the dark workings in the city’s shadows. It is the job of Peter Mantus, investigator of the arcane, to dive into those shadows and thwart the evil within.
The story of Peter Mantus has a standout role in Silverline, not only bringing a unique view on the arcane and magic but also being one of the press’s few titles to deal with horror themes. Silverline’s dedicated readers will notice that like many of Silverline’s titles, the series is rooted in crime. It takes the crime-thriller structure to play on and bend some tropes and concepts commonly found in horror.
Peter Mantus himself is a play on a type of character seen throughout literature. Mantus has been haunted by demons ever since he was a young boy. After his family’s dark dealings were put to an end, and he was rescued, Mantus raised himself to fight the darkness that nearly consumed him. He has spent so long investigating supernatural evil that he has become an expert in the subject. To better his fellow man, he has written down his knowledge on all things evil in hopes that the lay-man could equip himself to fight off the darkness. The pure sensationalism of it all, however, seems to be what grabs most people’s attention. Through publication and publicizing Mantus has earned himself a reputation as a celebrity “ghost hunter.” Mantus finds himself in situations where to get others to take him seriously, he’ll have to show them just how malevolent the forces of darkness can be.
The series starts with little attention paid to Peter Mantus, instead focusing on the evil he is sworn to destroy. Jennifer Morris, a lady of the night, suddenly finds her life is at its end as a madman raving about “closing the gate” sets her and himself ablaze in a dingy hotel room. From there we transition to Sgt. Ferris Jackson, a detective for New Orleans homicide. After establishing the current state of New Orleans, we are introduced to Peter Mantus as he returns home to search for his friend Raymond Evers. Raymond is a social worker with a long and deep relationship with Peter. He is also one of many individuals tied to the city’s homeless population to go missing.
This brings Peter into contact with Sgt. Jackson as he thinks one of the bodies in the fire might have been Raymond. Sgt. Jackson takes away two things from their interactions. The first being that now he has the name of Raymond Evers as a suspect in a murder-suicide. Second, Mantus is a talking head on television, espousing mystical nonsense. Mantus’ search then leads him to find Tammara, a mother whose daughter went missing. As they investigate, they draw the attention of a group of vampires who would prefer they stop asking questions.
Issue 2 picks up with the duo of Mantus and Tammara cornered by the pack of vampires. Mantus launches into action with a big boot to the chest of one of the vampires. Mantus discovers the vampires to be surprisingly fragile. The attackers themselves seem surprised to have a victim that’s putting up a fight. It’s not long before Mantus creates an opening for their escape. As Mantus and Tammara break for it, a photographer by the name of Quaid assists in their retreat, blinding the vampires with the flash on his camera. After they regroup, Quaid leads Mantus to the cemetery where the disappearances and vampire sightings seem to be dense. There Mantus begins to unravel the mystery of the dark power orchestrating the recent events in New Orleans.
The series continues as Mantus draws connections from his past to the cult conspiracy, bringing him closer to learning the truth of what happened to his friend Raymond Evers. Quaid enlists the help of a special local magic practitioner to ascertain the motives of the dark forces in the city. Sgt. Jackson Ferris and Peter Mantus attempt to break through the distrust to develop a professional relationship for the sake of the city. As each investigator moves closer to the truth, we learn that much more than the Crescent City is at stake.
The Mantus Files doesn’t truly fit in just one particular category. It’s more like Demon-Noir, with the tone and trappings of a hard-boiled detective novel. The Mantus Files feature strong narration from the characters, a slow burn as the layers of the mystery are peeled back by the team of investigators, and an explosive finish when it all comes to ahead. This unique voice delivers the story of a dark thriller. The clock is ticking for the heroes to make it out alive. Around every corner is a beast looking to turn an investigator into prey. The dead rise, and mortal men are used as fuel for dark and ancient plots set in motion long ago. Bookended with a splash of body horror for the connoisseur. The Mantus Files sets itself apart as both a crime-procedural and horror-thriller.
Written by the incomparable Sidney Williams, this is one of Sid’s four entries with Silverline Comics. A novelist by trade and madman by heart. Sid has also written several novels and pieces of short fiction as he has honed his craft over the years.
Penciled by Thomas Giles. The Mantus Files showcases his ability to illustrate anything and everything from a crime scene investigation to ancient unspeakable horrors.
Inked by the prolific Dan Vincent Schaefer. Dan has done just about everything from writing, to illustrating, editing, and inking on too many titles to count since 1986. Some notable credits of his include writing Mickey Mouse Adventures and inking Spider-Man: The Next Chapter.