Nightmares Illustrated 006
By Wayne Edwards

Nightmares Illustrated, the column for horror comics readers.

I. Always On My Mind…

Waiting. Nobody likes to wait. Why then do we like it as readers when tension builds over a number of issues until something tasty tidbit of information is finally revealed? Well, because anticipation is exciting. Also, since we don’t like to wait, making us wait adds tension to the hold situation. Waiting for a couple issues, or maybe even six, say, to find out some big news can be fun. But sometimes the waiting deal is overdone. And here I am talking about not the final resolution of a big arc or event, but some very particular piece of information withheld for a long time. Like the secret identity of a character, say.

I’ll give you an example. I’ve read the Incredible Hulk from the first issue to the current and all the incarnations in between. I have always liked the Hulk character because, as Hulk readers know, Hulk just wants to be left alone but he never is. It seems like such a simple request, you know, but people can’t help meddling. So, in 2008, a new Hulk popped up, Red Hulk. I’ll spare you the details because this is not entirely a horror line. Let’s leave it that it became obvious early on that Red Hulk was a regular Marvel character that had been Hulkified and the mystery of who the Red Hulk really was heated up. Fair enough. That is interesting as afar as it goes. But it doesn’t go two years. After eight or nine or ten issues of the “Who is he !?!” dance, I just didn’t care anymore. Twenty two issues later we find out the identity and it actually made a lot of sense in the context of Hulk continuity. But the wait was too long and even though the reveal might have been very interesting if it had occurred earlier, the annoying factoring outweighed the exciting factor.

Usually, writers (and publishers) don’t make this big of a misstep. When they do, we should all respond by stopping the cash flow. Don’t buy the book anymore until the nonsense is over. Are you with me?

**********************************************************************

II. This Just In…

Spawn Origins. Spawn is a rare character from an independent publisher (might as well read: not Marvel or DC) that has had a run of nearly 200 issues now in the primary series. That is extraordinary. In fact, by the measure of longevity for an independent, it has hardly any rivals, save Vampirella. The initial success is owed in large part to Todd McFarlane’s creation of the character and his work on it. Along the way, many writers and artists have contributed to the success of Spawn and its continuing fan appeal. For me, the main draw continues to be the stunning artwork. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but overall the artwork has been top drawer from the very beginning.

One major drag about Spawn is that the individual comics are fairly hard to find. Usually, that’s not a giant deal because collections of the comics are available. Not so much in the case of Spawn. There have been several attempts to construct chronological and comprehensive collections series to capture the entire run, but they always seem to falter, restart, re-falter. It is discouraging for fans. At the moment, nearly half the entire run of Spawn is out of reach for most readers.

Well, dry your eyes because Image has started a new series of top-of-the-line hardcover collections of Spawn beginning, again, at the beginning. Spawn Origins Collection Book 1 is special for a number of reasons. It offers an oversized presentation of the first twelve issues. Not hugely oversized, but bigger enough from the originals comics to tell the difference. And yes I said the first twelve issues—all of them. Rare indeed in reprint collections are issues nine (written by Neil Gaiman) and ten (written by Dave Sim), ten having never been included in a collection before. Besides these two blocked-by-ownership-disputes issues, number eight was written by Alan Moore and number eleven was written by Steve Miller. The rest of the issues in the collection were written by Todd McFarlane, and McFarlane illustrated them all. These are classic horror comics indeed.

I haven’t said anything about the plot or characters because Spawn is iconic. If you have never read nor heard about it but like horror comics, just rush out and buy this collection now, unseen. You will not regret it. If you already have one of the earlier versions of the collection, this one might still be a good buy to get the uncollected issues nine and ten. One funny thing about those two issues: even though many Spawn comics are hard to track down, nine and ten are surprisingly easy to find and inexpensive. So you could just pick up the originals and skip this new collection but my advice is to get the hardcover. It is a beautiful thing and a sweet deal.

**********************************************************************

The Ghoul. Any new comic illustrated by legendary artist Bernie Wrightson is an event. The latest: The Ghoul. The series only ran three issues, which is a bit disappointing. The hardcover collection includes these three issues plus short stories of the three issues as well. An art gallery is thrown in for good measure to stretch the page count out to a length that supports the cover price.

The ghoul in The Ghoul is a large, grey monstrosity whose occupation is solving weird (supernatural) crimes. The story is short and bloody with a surprisingly rapid and mundane conclusion. Wrightson’s art is good, as expected, and the Steve Niles story, while not what I was expecting after his work on 30 Days of Night, was all right. The end of this mini states bluntly that the characters had more adventures than just this murderous little rampage, so maybe new issues are in the offing. I give it a moderate recommendation, with the caveat that The Ghoul will probably most appeal to Bernie Wrightson fans.

**********************************************************************

Bram Stoker’s Death Ship: The Last Voyage of the Demeter. How about a comic that tells the story of what happened during Dracula’s transit from Varna to Whitby on the Demeter? After all, we really know very little from the novel. The ship arrived with no living souls except the large dog that jumped ship at landfall. The record of the journey is sparse, with only a few entries in the ship’s log. Dracula, presumably, got to the crew. But how exactly did it all go down? Tell me that’s not an absolutely fantastic idea for a comic: telling the story of the last voyage of the Demeter. In fact, I much prefer this sort of an appendix to a classic tale—fleshing out a interesting sidebar—to a retelling or recasting of the main story itself. Now we have it. Gary Gerani brings the story to life with the help of Stuart Sayger’s whimsical artwork. Issue #1 makes big promises in its set up and first glimpses at Dracula in predator form on the ship. No missteps so far. Highly recommended.

**********************************************************************

Victorian Undead. The tag line on the cover of each issue of this six-issue mini reads “Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies!” Sure, why not. Zombies continue to be a big draw for horror fans. I am not sure why, but I admit I like them, too. Weird.

Victorian Undead begins in very late nineteenth century London with a ball of green light falling from the sky. Not long after, people die from an apparent plague. Then they walk again. Given the time and place it is merely logical that Sherlock Holmes would try to solve the mystery. It is not long before Holmes figures out Moriarty is behind the continuing infestation of zombies and the chase is on.

Written by Ian Edginton with artwork by Davide Fabri, Victorian Undead was perhaps inevitable. The good news is that even though we could see this coming down the pike the series turned out to be highly enjoyable. It is a surprisingly fluid transition for Sherlock Holmes from the tangible, mundane world into the realm of the supernatural. All the usual elements are present for a fine bit of detective work, Watson is in rare form, and Moriarty is as sinister as ever. This comic is great fun for horror fans of Doyle’s most remembered character. Recommended.

 

**********************************************************************

III. Swamp Report…

Solomon Grundy. Cyrus Gold was killed in Slaughter Swamp in 1885. After he died he merged with the swamp, and evil formed him into a monster called Solomon Grundy. A new trade paperback collects the entire 2009 series that sees Grundy resurrected once again and given a chance to lift the curse that transformed him from Cyrus Gold into the shambling grey hulk, Grundy. Written and illustrated by Scott Kolins, the comic is dark and grim, and it is set in a swamp. The series gets big points for that last bit. It is collateral to the Blackest Night event but really has very little to do with it. The series turns out to be a little repetitive and has the all-too-common parade of company characters including Killer Croc, the Phantom Stranger, Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Bizarro, the Spectre, the demon Etrigan, and a few others. The constant death and resurrection angle gives it a high level of horror content. Overall it is all right. Nothing too special. I give it a middling recommendation.

 

**********************************************************************

IV. Parting Shots…

Eternal Descent. In the first issue, a rogue angel dispatches a gang of menacing damned with his guitar. Second issue? You guessed it: more guitar battling. The artwork by Jason Metcalf, David Rivera, and Javier Tartaglia is beautiful while the writing, so far, leaves you a little empty. Maybe, like The Wire, it takes a while to get into.

American Vampire 2. The second issue of the “Stephen King” comic is picking up steam. Scott Snyder’s 1925 Los Angeles arc is wildly savage and plenty creepy, while Stephen King’s 1880’s origin arc digs up more dirt on how the whole thing started. The main thing I dislike about this book is the vampire looks like Kid Rock. Otherwise, it is a good choice for vampire reading.

Nemesis 1. It is only the first issue and I am bored already. Maybe I am more annoyed than bored. The obnoxious slogan on the cover, “Makes Kick-Ass look like $#!T,” is off-putting. So far, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s latest vehicle about a super villain is falling flat. Let’s give it a little time.

Orc Stain 3. One-eye is back trying to avoid the poxagronka Poinyface called on him after One-eye sliced off Pointyface’s gronch. The carnage is beyond imaging in James Stokoe’s Orc Stain, the most fun you’ll have reading “mature” comics these days. Highest recommendation.

Haunt 6. Issue #6 of Haunt takes a breather during the changing of the guard of the book’s creative team to tell the backstory/perspective of the character Mirage. It is a serviceable stand-alone with nice art by Greg Capullo and Todd McFarlane. The big question is what comes next and should you read Haunt or Spawn or both? More on that next time.

The Bible: Eden. I feel a little weird bringing this one up here but I have to mention the artwork by Scott Hampton for the Bible adaptation by Dave Elliot and Keith Giffen is quite beautiful. I mean, if you try not to make too much of Eve being blonde. The horror content is fairly low except for Satan and a couple bloody sword scenes. This painted comic, which originally appeared in Penthouse, is worth a bookstore browse.

 

**********************************************************************

V. Next time…

One last look back at Blackest Night with coverage of the collected editions, more zombies (because we just can’t get enough), and the worse thing ever for your shirts.

 

**********************************************************************

VI. Notes…

If you have review material or suggestions you can contact me at we21011@earthlink.net.

The publishers are as follows.

Solomon Grundy and all Blackest Night titles, tie-ins, and minis are published by DC Comics.

American Vampire is published by Vertigo.

Victorian Undead is published by Wildstorm.

Haunt, Orc Stain, and Spawn are published by Image/Top Cow.

The Bible: Eden, Bram Stoker’s Death Ship, Eternal Descent, and The Ghoul are published by IDW.

Nemesis is published by Icon.

All Hulk comics are published by Marvel.

~#~


Wayne Edwards has been quietly writing, editing, and publishing for the past three decades. He divides his time between Anchorage [Alaska], Burlington [Vermont], and Mysore [India].


Sponsored by: