I’m moving! And I’ve just now realized that this column is more than a year old! And yes, that’s factoring in the weeks I’ve missed. I seriously cannot believe it’s been a full year since I started this thing. And, did I mention I’m moving? I’m pretty excited about that. Cheaper rent, bigger apartment, more roommates, nicer area, longer drive… the benefits outweigh the cons. I’m a fan of moving. I know that sounds crazy but I just have such a deep-seated fear of commitment that it feels good every time to slough off the memories and emotions that hang around living spaces, not to mention getting rid of a lot of shit I don’t need.
Yet here I am, further committing myself to doing this column as long as I possibly can, assuming Destroy The Brain puts up with me for much longer. I hope you’ll hang in there as I try to expand the column to cover more horror comics news, interviews and maybe previews as well. I’ll be hard pressed to leave behind the format as is but I aspire to make this chopping block into your home for comics-related things. And all I ask is that you place your neck right here in this groove and wait.
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Price: $4 (Digital)
So the official release date of the Director’s Cut of the movie NIGHTBREED is listed on Amazon as October 28th, for both the standard and limited editions of the movie. “What’s the difference,” you ask? Oh, about $45. And no, we’re not talking about a mega-cheap standard edition, it’s still the standard $25 dollars. No, the limited edition is, in fact, just north of $70. Why? Well, conveniently, our head honcho at Destroy The Brain wrote an article explaining exactly this, with some added anecdotal charm. Check it out. Part of me is wary of investing in something I’m not sure I’ll passionately explore enough to justify the price, especially as I’ve never seen the original cut, so I’m probably going to go for the basic edition. But it is mighty tempting, because if I love this movie as much as I do the comic book, I’ll probably wish I had the Limited Edition. Though, honestly, if I’m going to sink *that* kind of dough on a DVD/Blu-Ray, it’ll probably be the new TWIN PEAKS box-set.
The new volume of NIGHTBREED marks a welcome return to exploring the larger world in which the story takes place, but not before reminding us of the ongoing drama in Midian, revolving around the mysterious new arrival and his foretold destiny. After that formality, the narrator takes us to a nameless alley in a city in Renaissance Italy, where yet another of Midian’s residents is being persecuted. Rather than fight, like the Midians of the prior issue did, she simply flees. This is intercut with a scene in late ‘60s San Francisco, probably the most drastic contrast of the series so far, delightfully so. Here’s where things get interesting; the subject of this particular narrative is a “minister” of sorts, and there’s a certain amount of weirdness coming off of his family’s brand of religion, even though it’s clearly the Christian faith. Mom’s a bit of a psycho and his naive response to a hippie’s sexual propositions are creepy, given his adult age. Barker’s religious themes either simmer quietly in the background or, in this case, bubble to the surface, and he explores the more unsettling aspects of it here.
But it’s not just the minister’s tale that takes on notes of the divine; in Italy, the pursued woman tries to save her offspring from the lynch mob, only have them rendered stunned by one of her newborn’s startling behavior. The way these two moments, one of a faith turned ugly, the other a divine impossibility, are so heavily contrasted, side by side, is some masterful storytelling, especially as they both surprise and/or shock in equal measures. There’s some question as to why the woman in Italy is being attacked to begin with but it’s safe to assume her grotesque appearance was the main reason.
Piotr Kowalski has another monumental task on his hands with this issue, depicting both the gritty slums of Renaissance France and San Francisco at the height of the Flower Power era. The Italy stuff takes on a nightmarish quality early on, thanks to Kowalski’s powerful landscapes and Juan Tumburus’ chilly, moon-lit colors. The rest of that scene takes place in a cave, rendering the backgrounds plain but at least Kowalski goes through the motions. The same goes for San Francisco, where Piotr’s eye for detail really bringing the era to life, buoyed by lively, vintage tones from the colorist, all left by the wayside as a grungy sex scene takes over. Later, though, at the book’s climax, things get pretty messy and Kowalski pulls out all the stops with a bathroom scene that’s genuinely disturbing. Again, I have to commend this series for being so bold and unpredictable at times.
This is the third issue in the NIGHTBREED comic and it has handily proven the $4 price tag of these issues is totally justified. I am a little worried, at this point, that my viewing of the NIGHTBREED movie won’t live up to this comic… how often does it happen that the comic adaptation of a movie puts the film itself at risk of looking bad? That’s how good this comic is. And they haven’t even gotten to the actual main story yet!
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Iain Laurie
Colorist: Megan Wilson
Publisher: Comix Tribe
Price: $2 (Digital)
I’ve read a comic from indie publisher Comix Tribe once before; it was called THE STANDARD, and it was a pretty bold rip-off of WATCHMEN. Enough so that I actually enjoyed it, which takes a lot of gusto, to get me to enjoy something I know is a blatant imitation. It looks like they’re making their first foray into true horror and what we’ve gotten is AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE also written by the author of THE STANDARD.
The story revolves around two characters: a former detective, Greg, who suffers horrifying visions, and a girl named Fiona whose friend Emily has gone missing. The twist is that Greg’s horrifying visions might have something to do with the legend of Bonnie Shaw, a Scottish boogeyman who Fiona suspects is connected with Emily’s disappearance. This issue serves mainly to introduce these two characters and does that well, thrusting us immediately into the tortured nightmare of Greg’s daily life, which is then interrupted by Fiona’s arrival, one that seemingly turns Greg’s world on its head; her presence dispels Greg’s unending hallucinations of grotesque creatures lurking everywhere. The dialogue is so pleasingly stark and minimalist yet dramatic, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Greg’s dilemma. “Let me have one night’s peace” is so well timed, you’d have to be cold not to pity Greg.
So his immediate acquiescence to Fiona’s request for his help makes way more sense. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s an immediately likable character in her polite urgency. She doesn’t get angsty about her missing friend; she simply relates the story and gets down to business. I’m fond of the fact that she’s no superstitious but she’s logical enough to realize that a cop who reported seeing real-life monsters might help her investigate a supernatural cause behind Emily’s absence. But while these two characters are the protagonists, writer John Lees has much more going on in his world. As they make their way to Emily’s hometown and Bonnie Shaw’s stomping grounds, the comic cuts to two seemingly unrelated narratives.
One is so well couched in the relatively mundane interactions of Greg and Fiona that when it unexpectedly explodes into gut-wrenching violence, it’s quite the shock, especially as there doesn’t appear to be an ounce of supernatural going on, just terrible people doing inhuman things beneath placid smiles. The other tale actually deepens the core mystery, as we discover Emily’s father has been acting strange and has taken to making an enigmatic box. There’s more than a bit of Lovecraftian vibes coming from this part of the story; the father’s line of “I think it might have driven me mad” not only sends chills down the spine but evokes classic Lovecraftian dread. I’m reminded more than a bit of the recent FANTASTIC Aussie horror film THE BABADOOK but with a much wider scope.
The art is done by Iain Laurie, an indie artist whose past work has mostly been horror-themed, and his style suits this tale perfectly. Despite his intensely nervous, awkward, heavy lines and loose aesthetic, he executes the story perfectly, wrapping the readers in the claustrophobic, grimy cityscape of Greg’s waking nightmare, populating it with monsters that are delightfully distinctive yet unpleasant to witness. When the tale transitions to the small town of Merksay, it takes on a more atmospheric, Lovecraftian tone (there’s that word again). So much of this has to do with colorist Megan Wilson’s transcendent application of subtle hues and shades… The ferry scene alone is so rich with thoughtful color choices that really make it almost taste like cold ocean water. I’m sure some readers will be put off by Iain Laurie’s weird lineart but it’s a surreal horror comic and it should unsettle you, rightfully. Thankfully, Iain and Megan buttress his bizarre vision of the world with a healthy dose of gore, verifying that hey, this IS a horror comic.
I really love AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE because it feels authentic, despite being remarkably similar to Stephen King’s work. In fact, if you like Stephen King at all, you’ve got to read this. And at only $2, you don’t have an excuse to pass it up, not with a full 25 pages of story.
Writer: Ralph Tedesco
Artist: Antonio Bifulco
Colorist: Richard Ortiz
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $3 (Digital)
Oh god, I’m reviewing a Zenescope book. What is wrong with me? Me reviewing a Zenescope book is just the worst idea in the world. If you’re not familiar with Zenescope, I can sum the up in two words: edgy cheesecake. It’s sexy women doing dark things, usually with some kind of dark riff on a classic, public-domain story like ‘Alice In Wonderland’ or ‘Wizard of Oz.’ It’s hard not to be immediately turned off by their books as I rarely see them pandering to those of us more interested in men than women. I mean, if you’re going to pander, you could at least be fair about it. But this new title, GRIMM TALES OF TERROR, claims a return to their old school horror roots, abandoning their now signature “twisted fairly tales” schtick.
As expected, the comic is bookended by a set up that we frankly see coming from a mile away, with a random stranger being lured into hearing a spooky story by an attractive and enigmatic woman who reads Edgar Allen Poe (of course). I guess it’s obligatory for this kind of horror comic to reference old school EC horror this way but it seems pretty much filler here, given how shallow the characters are. Regardless, it segues into a different story, which is actually a psychiatric patient ALSO telling a story (sigh) about the circumstances surrounding her institutionalization. It pretty quickly becomes a more convoluted take on THE TELL-TALE HEART, reimagining the crazed murderer of the original story as the aforementioned woman whose husband became “something else” and she murdered him. Or thought she did. It all gets a bit silly as she explains how… nevermind. Basically, there’s monster-people out there and *gasp* her psychiatrist is one of them! I get that they’re trying to evoke classic EC comics here but those comics are a product of an era. Unless you’re going to be campy about it, you can’t do that again. And this comic is NOT campy. If anything, it’s a bit repulsive how the woman is helpless as the monster men attack her. Oh, and there’s the much sillier pay off at the end of the issue, calling back to the opening bit. It’s not very funny and really kind of comes off mean spirited.
The art is just as mediocre as you’d expect from this effort. The artist’s credit, the monsters are actually pretty creepy looking. But there’s literally nothing else I have to say about the art other than “meh” and given that there’s only the one monster… I mean, at least there’s no gratuitous nudity or ridiculous outfits but there’s also nothing of merit here either.
Even at $3, this is trash. It might just be your kind of trash, though. It’s got beautiful woman, creeps, more beautiful women and more creeps, plus gore. It’s like someone looked at old horror comics and said “Hey, we can do that!” and then they did and missed the point entirely. But you know what? I’ll give ‘em a second chance. Maybe the next issue will up the ante on the story. Doubtful, but you never know.