Riding the horse to the dark workshop . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Horror / thriller titles I have read recently include:
ABE SAPIEN: THE HAUNTED BOY one-shot (Dark Horse, October 2009) by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
I am really warming up to this sad, alienated (“fish out of water”) character even more so than to Hellboy, Mignola’s other famous creation. Abe gets assigned to investigate what seems a simple paranormal occurrence. On the site of an accident where two boys fell into a frozen lake the ghost of the boy who didn’t survive seems to haunt the lake. Things are not what they seem and this tale of spirits and possession combined with a mother’s despair and another family’s concealing of secrets has a lot of depth to it. I was moved by this as much as by the frequent misunderstanding that Abe encounters. The art by Patric Reynolds is very well done and helps to convey the emotions of the story.
CREEPY #2 (Dark Horse, November 2009) horror anthology, various contributors
I wrote a mostly critical review of Creepy #1 three months ago that was born more out of disappointment rather than disinterest. So it may surprise some to see me coming back here for a second helping. However, if you remember my previously-expressed interest in having good quality horror comics succeed then you understand.
I am happy to report that CREEPY #2 does a much better job of recalling those classic days of yore. Both story and art have been upgraded since last issue, and this is getting much closer to my ideal of what a good horror comics anthology series should feel like. I’m a little concerned that two of these tales plus a feature are scripted by the same person ( a member of New Comics Company, the group responsible for the CREEPY revival). But Dan Braun does a commendable job here, and if he keeps it up we’re going to be hearing more about him.
This issue has less filler (just the one two-page feature, which was actually decent) and the stories are more creative and less stereo-typical in their characterization than we saw in CREEPY #1. The four new stories and one reprint all have the twisted, surprising endings as expected but they don’t seem quite as forced and are much more fun to read.
The opening story, “Human Nature” by Dan Braun and Greg Ruth revolves around the wealthy recipient of a large inheritance who spends his time reading souls and judging characters in order to change their fortunes/future with his donated money. Naturally we suspect that he has judged one character incorrectly - - but this doesn’t end as expected.
My favorite story this issue is the gory, grisly and highly creative “Musclecar!” by Mike Baron and Nathan Fox. A redneck solves the energy crisis by inventing a car that runs on meat - - the CARnivore - - just feed it some road kill. The art evokes memories of the old black and white CARtoons magazine, extremely appropriate for this story.
“Drawn Out” by Joe R. Lansdale and Rahsan Ekedal is a very creepy story of a jealous husband whose carefully plotted murder of his wife and lover goes off according to plan, only to result in an unexpected surprise during his concluding suicide attempt. I like this so much better than Lansdale’s story last issue, which felt like it was hurried off and written in about five minutes. I’m thinking the highly creative and twisted Lansdale probably spent an hour on this one. He’s a fast read.
“The Curse, Part Two” by Dan Braun and Jason Shawn Alexander adds an interesting twist to the events detailed in the last issue as the main character decides to create a new and dark occupation for himself based on his newly-discovered powers. It will be interesting to see how this concludes in Creepy #3.
Finally, the reprint “The Shadow Of The Axe!” by Dave Sims and Russ Heath seems a much better choice than the theme-breaking kindly alien farm boy story they reprinted last issue. This one has a disturbing ending that will stay with you.
Dark Horse publisher/founder Mike Richardson takes another stab (his other work is THE SECRET) at writing a horror tale in the EC/Creepy vein, and does an admirable job. CUT is creepy and eerie in the right places, and manages to portray it’s grisly suspense with vivid images and a minimum amount of dialogue. It’s a quick read, recommended just before bed-time. (Make sure you have a night light handy, just in case you get chills trying to sleep).
Packaged as a digest-sized graphic novel, THE CUT centers around the feeding habits of a speechless vampire creature and introduces a variation on the much-used “murder in a locked room” plot device employed by detective fiction writers. The victim is trapped inside a second-floor room of a decaying home with a locked door and boarded windows. The entire home seems boarded up, and the only entry is a huge hole in the attic roof. On the other side of the door the victim hears strange and unbearable sounds.
The art as penciled by Todd Herman, inked by Al Milgrom and colored by Dave Stewart is done in the beloved EC Comics style. A neat little chiller that doesn’t need to be fancy.
THE GHOUL #1 (IDW, November 2009) by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson
Actually, there’s a lot to like here, from the mysterious shadowy introduction of the world’s most unusual (and large!) criminal investigator to the incredible stylings of Wrightson (some of his best work in years is right here). My only beef is the story ends so quickly after just 16 pages, to be continued. Niles makes up for that a little with a text piece , “My Ghoul”, which provides a lot of back-story/explanation of his newest character creation.
The Ghoul, reminding me a lot of Peter David’s gray Las Vegas Hulk from years back, is called into Los Angeles to assist another detective who has some supernatural suspicions about the latest investigation. The Ghoul provides a lot of amusing comments and seems to have a very good-natured self-deprecating ability to accept himself and make the best of things.
Jennifer Love Hewitt's MUSIC BOX #1 (Dark Horse, November 2009) by Scott Lobdell and Michael Gaydos
I admit to being a little skeptical when I saw this title. Most males don’t associate well-endowed beauties like Jennifer Love Hewitt with creative writing abilities. I guess I’m just as guilty of taking the easy route and succumbing to the typical stereo-typing. The credits page notes that this title was “created by Jennifer Love Hewitt” and the actual story is written by Scott Lobdell. Who knows how much of this is actually attributable to her. It doesn’t matter since it’s a good story albeit based on a concept familiar enough to anyone who’s watched their share of Twilight Zone episodes.
A police detective assigned to homicide investigations comes across a mysterious music box in the evidence room. He “borrows” it and find that it grants him the power to foresee crimes before they occur. He uses this to stop events before they happen and becomes a decorated hero. Each glimpse into the future threatens his sanity, and as a result of one too many uses it drives him mad. Someone else undoubtedly will come into possession of the music box in the next issue. I’m assuming each owner will be granted a different power or vision, otherwise this title will become very predictable after several issues.
Lobdell does a good job with fleshing out the background of the detective which keeps it interesting and actually makes you happy/sad that he received this new ability. The art is good quality and will remind you of the style, inking and coloring typically seen in 100 BULLETS and CRIMINAL.
Clive Barker’s SEDUTH one-shot (IDW, October 2009) by Clive Barker + Chris Monfette and Gabriel Rodriguez
I usually don’t get caught up in 3-D books. I bought several of them for my son back in the 80’s, when the G.I. Joe, Gumby and Transformers 3-D books were popular. The idea was cool and it was fun to look at the increased depth and new dimensionality of the drawings. But you haven’t seen the benefits of 3-D like they are used here - - when employed as a way to enhance (and further frighten) the details of a horror comic. This is the best use (that I have seen) of 3-D effects in comics. Wait until you see some flies and maggots crawling over a decaying body that looks as close as the back of your hand! And for a very surreal experience, try typing a review while wearing the 3-D glasses. What an otherworldly feeling!
Unlike some other 3-D books, you can even read this without wearing the glasses. Actually the dialogue and captions are very detailed and small. It’s difficult to read them while experiencing the 3-D effect. I suggest reading the book once without them; and then read it again while paying more attention to the images, for the best possible experience. I am actually stunned by the power of this book ! I stole a peek at the book for just a few moments and was disturbed by what I saw enough to decide on a later day-time reading. Whoa!
Seduth concerns itself with numerology and a secret dimension, the abode of Seduth. The story is taken from the personal diaries of adventurer Harold Engle, who discovered a flawless diamond while exploring in South Africa. The prism inside the center of the diamond is a gateway to the fourth dimension. Harold loses possession of the diamond due to his wife’s blind vanity and he leaves a trail of murder behind in his attempt to recover it. You have to see the reality of murder, death and blood come rushing towards you from the very pages you are holding in your hands.
When Engle uses the diamond to enter the fourth dimension mid-way through the book it’s mind-boggling. Imagine the offbeat details of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange weaving through a mysterious universe and now enhance it further with 3-D. Too bad this technology wasn’t this advanced back then - - what an experience reading Strange Tales with these glasses might have been!
This is a one-shot experiment and not a continuing series. I’ve been paring down my comics collection and mostly keeping just trade paperbacks and hardcovers of my favorite works rather than single comics issues. I’m breaking that rule here. This one is a keeper. It’s a great example of what might be possible in comics with further utilization of 3-D effects.