Tuesday, November 1, 2016

COMICS READING FOR OCTOBER: “Oh, the horror”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

HORROR comics don’t usually work for me, but goddamn I’ve collected my fair share over the years. Some have been genuinely terrifying (Revival, 30 Days Of Night,Nailbiter), others pretty damn entertaining (Criminal Macabre) while others have been...CRAP. To celebrate Halloween (and my 31 Days Of Horror film project), I decided to read at least ONE horror comic a day. Let’s see how I went, what I read and whether any of them were any good.

1. Chicken Soup For Satan #1 (Asylum Press, 2003) **½
Writer: Robert Steven Rhine/Artists: various
2. Satan Gone Wild #1 (Asylum Press, 2004) ***
Writer: Robert Steven Rhine/Artists: various
Gross-out B&W horror comix – more ridiculous than genuinely scary. Hilary Barta is the pick of the artists in Satan Gone Wild.
3.  Cthulhu (Dark Oz, 2015) *
Writer: Darren Koziol/Artists: various
Decay is a flawed but hardy magazine-sized anthology that’s been around for six years and keeps on ticking. It’s spawned a few spin-off titles, like Retro Sci-Fi (which I like) and this offer from last year, the more US market-friendly, regular comic-sized Cthulhu, featuring tales taken from Decay #12. It’s a great idea and there’s only one letdown: it’s SHIT. Koziol is a mediocre writer but he’s not helped being coupled by some of the most inept artists in this country. How a veteran legend like Glenn Lumsden got roped in with the rest of these nuffies is beyond me. The only thing that horrified me about Cthulhu is that it got published once, let alone TWICE.
4. Blood Club #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1992) ****
Writer/Artist: Charles Burns
5.-6. The Thing From Another World #1-2 (Dark Horse, 1991-92) ***½
Writer: Chuck Pfarrer/Artist: John Higgins
Picking up where we left off from the John Carpenter version of The Thing, Pfarrer reveals what happend to MacReady and Childs after their camp blew up. Turns out that the alien shapeshifter is still alive and well. But are either or both men infected, too?
This is actually an effective lil’ micro-series and the artwork by Higgins is sensational.
7. McBlack (Black House Comics/Black Glass Press, 2011) **
Writer: Jason Franks/Artists: Jason Franks and Dave Gutierrez
8. McBlack Two Shot (Black Glass Press, 2012) **½
Writer: Jason Franks/Artists: Jason Franks, Dave Gutierrez, Bruce Mutard, Luke Pickett, Rhys James and John Stewart (interior); Rhys James (cover)
Poorly drawn ultra-violence with an indestructible lead character with no motivation and no characterisation, just bad one-liners. He’s Freddy Krueger if Krueger was a puppet made from a toilet roll.
9.-14. The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1-6 (Image, 2012) ****
Writer: David Hine/Artist: Shaky Kane
Utterly bizarre sequel to an equally bizarre first series. William S. Burroughs-style comic cut-ups, warped superheroes, zombie trading cards, dioramas, beatnik horror stories and a killer clown. Arguably the weirdest thing I’ve read this year.
15. Dia De Los Muertos  #1 (Image, 2013) **¾
Writers/Artists: various
16. Horror In The Dark #4 (Fantagor Press, 1995) ***
Writers/Artists: Richard Corben and friends
Not one of the better Corben comics he’s ever done.
17.-21. Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1-5 (Dark Horse, 2012) ***¾
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Tonci Zonjic (interiors); Dave Johnson (covers)
22. Lobster Johnson: The Prayer of Neferu (Dark Horse, 2012) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Wilfredo Torres (interiors); Tonci Zonjic (covers)
23. Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum (Dark Horse, 2012) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artist: Tonci Zonjic
24. Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat (Dark Horse, 2013) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artist: Kevin Nowlan
25.-26. Lobster Johnson: A Scent Of Lotus #1-2 (Dark Horse, 2013) ***¾
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Sebastián Fiumara (interiors); Tonci Zonjic (covers)
27. Museum Of Terror Vol. 2: Tomie 2 (Dark Horse, 2006) ****¼
Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
Not as terrifying as the more random horror-oriented MOT Vol. 3, but this themed manga has its unsettling, scary moments. These tales, first printed from 1995-2000 in Monthly Halloween and Nemuki magazines, are about a beautiful and manipulative woman (or girl, depending on the story) called Tomie. She drives every man she encounters to madness and murder. Even if she’s killed she can regenerate. Selfish, narcissistic and manipulative, this force of nature exists to ruin and destroy the lives of the people she crosses paths with. Probably the pick of them is the tale of the guys who use Tomie’s ground-up flesh to create the world’s most intoxicating sake. Sick shit. The babysitter dealing with a demonic infant Tomie is also creepy as fuck.
28. Courtney Crumrin Tales: A Portrait Of The Warlock As A Young Man (Oni Press, 2005) ***¾
29.-38. Courtney Crumrin #1-10 (Oni Press, 2012-13) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh

39.-42. 30 Days Of Night #1-4 (IDW, 2011-12) ***½
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Sam Kieth
 43.-46. 30 Days Of Night: Night, Again #1-4 (IDW, 2011) ***½
Writer: Joe R. Lansdale/Artist: Sam Kieth
 47.-50. Epilogue (IDW, 2009) ***½
- originally published in Epilogue #1-4 (IDW, 2008)
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Kyle Hotz
 Steve mines that vampire vein for all he’s worth. A vampire superhero? Sure, why not?

51.-56. Revival Vol. 7: Forward (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Revival #36-41 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artist: Mike Norton
57.-60. Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities And The Ghastly Fiend Of London #1-4 (Dark Horse, 2010) ***¾
(Billy The Kid) Writer: Eric Powell/Artist: Kyle Hotz
(The Goon) Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
The longest title in comic-book history, surely? Still, I’ll give credit to Powell for weaving an historic horror yarn that features The Elephant Man, the world’s first serial killer HH Holmes, Mr Hyde AND Jack The Ripper – and treats them with utter disdain. It’s still a cool yarn – and very flippant in that Eric Powell style – but he has no reverence for the classics and true crime history. Is that a good thing? You tell me.
The Goon tale at the back of each issue is mindless, clubbering fun and allows Powell to take a few vicious shots at superhero comix.

61.-65. Black Eyed Kids Vol. 1: The Children (Aftershock, 2016) ***½
- originally published in BEK #1-5 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writer: Joe Pruett/Artist Szymon Kudranski
I love the BEK phenomenon but this yarn hasn’t quite grabbed me yet, possibly because Pruett’s dialogue is a bit too bombastic and preposterous in parts. The artwork and feeling of dread throughout this book is pretty great, though. But until we find out exactly how these seemingly indestructible monsters can be killed, then it’s all a bit bleak to me. Also, I know it’s relatively new, but I’m not super-keen on the BEK mythology being fucked with already. Adult BEKs? I don’t think so. I may give Vol. 2 a shot, but it’ll have to improve a lot in the writing department for that to happen.
66.-69. Criminal Macabre: Final Night (Dark Horse/IDW, 2013) ***¾
- originally published in Criminal Macabre: Final Night #1-4 (Dark Horse/IDW, 2012-13) 
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Christopher Mitten
A Criminal Macabre and 30 Days Of Night crossover and a suitably gruesome conclusion to the 30 Days Of Night saga.
70,-75. Chronicles Of Wormwood: The Last Battle (Avatar, 2011) ****½
- originally published in Chronicles Of Wormwood: The Last Battle (Avatar, 2009-10)
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Oscar Jimenez
I loved this trade. It’s a helluva idea, the Antichrist and Jesus Christ being best mates and hanging out in New York City. Gory in parts, funny in others, full-on blasphemous in others. And Garth Ennis features arguably the most horrific Australian caricature since Bazza McKenzie, Pope Jacko.
76.-79. Criminal Macabre: The Eyes Of Frankenstein #1-4 (Dark Horse, 2013) ***½
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Christopher Mitten
80. Sink #1 (Comix Tribe, 2016) *****
Writer: John Lees/Artist: Alex Cormack
About as violent and disturbing a comic as I’ve read this year. Horrifying in parts – you’ll never see Glasgow in the same light again.
81.-84. Satan’s Six #1-4 (Topps, 1993) **
Writer: Tony Isabella/Artists: John Cleary and Armando Gil, Jack Kirby and friends
Several pages of classic Kirby art and a couple of trading cards don’t make a great comic. This concept is half-baked at best, but it’s even worse in the hands of a hack like Isabella and a godawful early 90s-style artist like Cleary. Guest appearances by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Jason Vorhees can’t save things. The in-jokes and meta-references are more annoying than anything else.
85.-87. Buzzard #1-3 (Dark Horse, 2010) ***½
(Buzzard) Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
(Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities) Writer: Eric Powell/Artist: Kyle Hotz
88.-97. Mr Monster #1-10 (Eclipse, 1985-87) ****
Writer: Michael T. Gilbert and friends/Artists: Michael T. Gilbert, William F. Loebs and friends
Very funny, very violent 80s sci-fi/horror mash-ups by Gilbert, Loebs and other big names from the 80s including Alan Moore and Keith Giffen. In addition, a couple of issues ran some tremendous pre-Comics Code horror reprints by industry legends Basil Wolverton and Steve Ditko...till the readers rejected the reprints concept. Pity. A great lil’ fun read. It’s a shame the B&W comics boom (and bust) of the late 80s hurt Mr Monster’s sales and eventually killed this title. Actually, the long wait between issues probably didn’t help either.
98.-100. Fang #1-3 (Sirius Entertainment, 1995) **½
Writer/Artist: Kevin J. Taylor
Taylor loves drawing women’s arses, even in a sci-fi-tinged vampire strip. No wonder he went into porn comix. I've always loved his fetishistic artwork, but his writing isn't his strong point. The story is confusing and pretentious.