Saturday, 25 October 2014 15:16

Funny Book Splatter (01.16.13)

 

Ex Sanguine #4
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Joshua Scott Emmons and Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Tim Seeley
$3.99, 24 Pages

Saul and Ashley have what can best be described as a dysfunctional relationship.  He's a careful vampire that has stayed under the radar for ages.  She's a psychotic serial killer with daddy issues.  I just don't understand why these two kids can't work out their differences and get hitched.  It's probably because Ashley's actions have caused the FBI to think Saul is behind a series of murders.  Oh, and that small fact that she's batshit crazy.

We get more into the background of Saul with this issue and possibly the true nature of the mysterious pen that Ashley tricked Saul into stealing previously.  I don't fully understand the events of this issue.  It looks like Saul went by a different name years ago and is able to change his appearance at will.  He claims to have a short term memory, which is why he carries a journal around so he can help remember. I think it would be cool if the pen was able to rewrite history and Ashley is making it so Saul was really responsible for those murders.  I don't see that happening though.

I'm digging Tim Seeley's artwork on Ex Sanguine.  The characters all look good, but the effects are where he really shines.  The changeover between Saul's different looks happens while he's looking in the mirror and his face blurs out for one panel before reforming into a new one.  There's also a large montage-like panel where Saul is putting some facts together about Ashley.  He's recapping recent events since she came into his life and each one is represented by small images of violence, framed by the thorns of a rose bush.

Ex Sanguine wraps up with the next issue.  Somehow, I don't see Ashley and Saul living happily ever after.  Their love will probably end in blood.  Lots and lots of blood.

 

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Chasing the Dead #3
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Matthew Scott & Tim Westland
Illustrated by Dietrich Smith
$3.99, 24 Pages

Sue Young is having a very bad day.  Her daughter has been kidnapped by some guy who is sending her on a wild goose chase in the middle of a snowstorm around a bunch of small towns for seemingly no reason.  She's pulled over by the cops because they are generally suspicious of cars that are covered in blood.  Fortunately, the detective on scene is the father of the young man that was filled with exposition during the last issue, so now she's got a buddy to help wade through the nonsense of the plot of Chasing the Dead.  

There's a good story somewhere in this comic.  It's buried deep though.  I'd really like to hear from someone that's read the original novel by Joe Schreiber because as it stands, this book bounces around between a bunch of random pieces of information and none of them seem to matter.  Sue was witness to a murder when she was a kid.  Her husband disappeared about a year ago.  There are a bunch of statues of a guy with a giant saw and a missing leg.  If I had to guess, this is kind of like Saw or Heavy Rain in that her husband was forced to go through this gauntlet of punishment once before and he failed.  Now she's being put through this to learn some sort of lesson.  I just don't care if she gets through it by this point because I have no vested interest in her or the other characters anymore.

Artist Dietrich Smith can draw some creepy undead folks, which almost makes up for the meandering story.  Right off the bat, Sue is attacked by her nanny who has had her eyes cut out.  Now she also has really jagged teeth, which is unexplained, but it doesn't make it any less unsettling.  The rest of the issue is basically talking heads without anything too exciting.

Despite the mediocre comic, I'm halfway interested in reading Joe Schreiber's novel, if for nothing else than to understand what the hell I'm looking at here.

 

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Hoax Hunters #6
Published by Image Comics
Written by Michael Moreci & Steve Seeley
Illustrated by Axel Medellin
$2.99, 32 Pages

After dealing with a dimension-hopping cult leader, the Hoax Hunters move on to the next logical step in supernatural terror: gnomes.  Wait. What?  Apparently the small town of Hauncheyville has been living with the legend of gnomes in the nearby forest.  They've embraced this mythology though, making it the town mascot.  This wasn't a planned stop for the team.  Instead, they're pulled into the investigation by the Hoax Hunters Hunters, a few nutjobs who believe that the reality TV show is actually one big conspiracy designed to cover up the existence of monsters, demons, and other creatures that go bump in the night.  They're right, but we can't have them spreading that kind of stuff around, now can we?

This issue of Hoax Hunters provides a little more information on Donavan, the "producer" of the show.  It was very clear at the end of the previous story arc that he's a slimy, evil guy, but that can be said for many people in the television business.  Donavan may be evil in the way that Satan is.  His true origin and background are still unclear, but the way that authors Micahel Moreci and Steve Seeley dance around the character has me very interested.

The inclusion of the Hoax Hunters Hunters makes a lot of sense.  I don't see them as rivals to the TV show, but an occasional inconvenience.  They're seen as conspiracy theorists but their paranoia is well founded.  Unfortunately for them, the Hoax Hunters are experts at covering things up so I don't see them causing too much trouble.

Axel Medellin returns to the book after taking an issue off.  He does a great job framing the story.  Early on, some kids are stoned to death by boulders that fall from the sky.  This is told in four panels without words.  You see some start to fall, then more and more until the teenagers are covered and a garden gnome plops on top with a THUD.  It adds a bit of humor to a terrifying situation.  This isn't the last death to appear in this issue.  There's another farther on that is absolutely brutal.  It's very reminiscent of one of the notable deaths in Hatchet, but unlike that film, Hoax Hunters is actually entertaining.

You should also check out this issue for the sweet Murder pinup by Jaimie C. Filer.  It shows the character in his astronaut suit with about ten crows popping out of the helmet.  All you see are the heads and beaks of the birds so it kind of looks like his face is exploding.  Such a cool shot.  This is the kind of thing I want hanging in my office.

 

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The Black Beetle #1
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
$3.99, 32 Pages

Francesco Francavilla is diving headfirst into the pulp era of comics with The Black Beetle.  The debut #0 issue was top notch, so I was excited to check out this one.  When it comes to storytelling, I absolutely love this time period because there are so many possibilities.  Francavilla's Black Beetle is like a noir Batman but cooler.  

Our hero is hot on the trail of some mafia men when they're blown to smithereens before he can bring them to justice.  Now he's got to figure out who's killing these bad guys and he's going to use every tool at his disposal to do so.

Black Beetle has a utility belt that would make Batman look underdressed.  He's got a ton of gadgets and gizmos that can be ready at a moment's notice to take on the criminal underbelly of Colt City.  Knockout darts, harpoon guns, and helicopter backpacks are some of the tools that Black Beetle uses this time around.  

Francavilla is a brilliant artist and his work in this comic is damn impressive seeing.  Of course, the characters look great, but what sets The Black Beetle apart is the art direction.  Francavilla frames each page in a way that breaks that usual structure of paneled comics but works so much better.  The images flow from one to the next in a very organic way.  He also provides unique perspectives on scenes.  There's a full page spread that shows the mobsters arriving at their meeting.  Instead of showing the entire shot, Francavilla shows us the view through Black Beetle's goggles, broken up into three pairs of eyes, as if the main character is blinking as he's moving his gaze down.  It's a great looking page and just the tip of the iceberg with this comic.

The #0 issue of The Black Beetle had a bit of a supernatural twist to it.  That isn't present in this one, but it's also just the first chapter of a four part arc.  I'm hoping that gets brought in because it added to the overall flavor of the comic.  Even without it, The Black Beetle is still a helluva fun book that would give Lobster Johnson a run for his money as the premiere pulp hero at Dark Horse.

 

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Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters One-Shot
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Erik Burnham
Illustrated by Jose Holder
$3.99, 26 Pages


The crossover that seems to go nowhere continues to meander, this time into the world of The Real Ghostbusters.  Not to be confused with the adjective-less Ghostbusters, this book is based on the cartoon from the 1980s, where Slimer was an annoying sidekick.  This one-shot plays on the War of the Worlds broadcast.  Instead of the local folks freaking out that aliens were invading, the radio show is picked up by actual Martians in orbit around the planet.  They think that they missed the invasion and swoop in to attack only to get hit by the least intimidating meteor around, causing them to crash land and die in Elmo's Hill, New Jersey.

Years later, the ghosts of the Martians turn up when a cable company starts to dig in the area.  Who else would get called in to deal with such a problem?  Wait, I said that wrong.  Who ya gonna call?  

I was a big fan of the Real Ghostbusters when I was a kid.  I tried to watch the show as an adult and couldn't get through the whole series.  Halfway through, all the voice actors changed and they made Slimer a much bigger part of the show.  It got boring fast.  This comic picks up right where I left off with the show, with lame jokes and cheesy dialogue.  

The artwork is alright but nothing special.  Fans of the cartoon will enjoy the panels featuring the ghost from the logo who used to announce the commercial breaks.  He pops up as a segway segue between different sections of the comic.  The images of the Martian ghosts are kind of cool, but they don't stand out all that much.

I was initially excited for these Mars Attacks crossovers, but none of them go anywhere and they're all pretty lackluster.  I don't know what's next on this tour of mediocrity and but I don't care.

 

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Extermination #8
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Simon Spurrier
Illustrated by V Ken Marion
$3.99, 26 Pages

The Extermination is over!  Nox and Red Reaper face off with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.  One of them needs to sacrifice himself to save Absolute (an asshole version of Superman) in order to destroy the portal that has allowed countless armies of aliens to swarm into our dimension and enslave the human race.  It turns out that neither of them wants to take that final leap. even though Nox was a fine, upstanding human being...or not.  It was just revealed that he's had super powers all along and he's kind of an evil guy too.  

This final issue provides a nice cap to the overall storyline.  It tore down everything you knew about superhero comics and built it up again in a tower filled with blood-soaked corpses and alien super weapons.  The twists along the way kept me on my toes and every time I thought I had things figured out, author Simon Spurrier would introduce a new spin that had me reeling.  

Instead of protecting the world, Extermination is about trying to salvage what is left after it has been completely ravaged.  Nox and Red Reaper are attempting to bring about some sort of peace, but it's unclear whether or not humanity can even come back from this mess.  

V Ken Marion provides a suitably epic scope to the finale of Extermination.  He has a great superhero art style with crisp pencils and loads of details.  When Absolute finally does return, he lays waste to the aliens in a vicious fashion, literally tearing them apart.  He uses all of his powers in a matter of moments and completely annihilates the invading force.  

Extermination is a great read.  Spurrier created all new characters and weaved a story that is an ending, not a beginning.  This is not a story meant to run for fifty years.  Instead he's picking up what might have been discarded after the heroes had been around for awhile and seeing what happens when most of them are brutally murdered.  Spurrier has a great skill for dialogue and reminds me a bit of Warren Ellis, which is definitely not a bad thing.  I'm looking forward to more of his work, especially if it's a twisted look at superheroes like this.

 

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Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness #4
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Eric Powell with Tracy Marsh
Illustrated by Kyle Hotz
$3.50, 28 Pages

What do you do when your traveling freak show buddies are turned into horrific monsters loyal to Dracula?  If you're Billy the Kid, you try to shoot and punch your way out of it and hope to somehow save your friends.  Armed with his trusty six shooters and bad hygiene, Billy finds it difficult to bash in the face of one of his friends, even if they're now a terrifying beast.  Fortunately he's not alone.  Father Anthony, the priest from the local town, is here to help with his magic lantern that's supposed to ward off evil.  That should help, right?

Eric Powell creates a pretty cool version of Dracula.  It's definitely one that stands out from the stuffed shirt old school European one that we're used to.  He's cultured, but instead of turning into your basic vampire or even a bat, Dracula transforms into a big red dragon with rows of sharp teeth.  He'll bite right through your neck, and he can also hypnotize people and mutate them into monsters, which is the case for the Oddities.  They're all a little different too.  It's not like you get one specific type of creature.  Some are lizard-like while others look like octopi or squids.  

Kyle Hotz knows how to draw some pretty creepy people.  Even the regular folks can be unsettling in this comic.  There's a scene where the townspeople are talking about how great Father Anthony is, but when you realize what it is that he's actually doing, it makes the whole page seem so much more disturbing.  The aforementioned monsters feel slimy, like you have to wash your hands after your turn the page.  The panels that stand out in this issue were Dracula's transformation back to his human form.  It's framed as four side-by-side shots as he walks towards Billy the Kid.  With each passing image, he gets a little smaller and more human, but even in the final panel he's still not completely right.  It's a great use of the space.

The Orm of Loch Ness had a gruesome ending, but one that has a bit of heart to it.  Yes, these are freaks...or oddities as Billy points out, but they're a family and they look out for one another.  Although there are western adventures he could be having, Billy the Kid is out in the middle of Scotland because of these people and he seems almost okay with that.

 

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B.P.R.D.: 1948 #4
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Max Fiumara
$3.50, 26 Pages

A rogue B.P.R.D. agent has ruffled some feathers while the professor helps a military research installation.  Anders was put in lockdown after an incident in the field but he's broken free and gone out monster hunting in the desert for an unknown reason.  Meanwhile, the professor seems to think he's figured out why there are so many creatures popping up in this area.  Years ago, this desert was a "mecca for shamanistic rituals" and a coven was established here back in the 1880s.  When the military started testing nuclear weapons here, it opened a door to another dimension and allowed these beings to come through.  Now they have to try to shut the portal and stop these things from coming through.

I'm liking B.P.R.D.: 1948, but I feel like I'm missing something.  I know there were two other mini-series before this one (1946 and 1947), but I don't know if they have any connection to this one yet.  It's easy to look at this as a snapshot of the Bureau's past, however there are some things that I just don't get.  Who's the weird little girl that pops up in the professor's room carrying a bottle of booze?  Can anyone else see her?  

I have been loving the pages devoted to a young Hellboy.  I would be totally okay if the entire comic was about a child Hellboy struggling to figure out where he belongs.  It could even be an all-ages title.  I'd be happy with that and it would look adorable.

The opposite of adorable could be a good way to describe Max Fiumara's monsters.  There's a scene where the lady doctor (I can't remember her name, but since it's 1948 maybe I should call her "dame"?) asks a soldier if the corpse of a creature looks vaguely human.  He says it does not.  That's a great way to sum up Fiumara's beasts.  There's a human element within monsters like werewolves and vampires.  The things that show up in this comic having nothing that's even close to resembling a human being.  That's probably what makes them so discomforting.  

It should be noted that Fiumara totally nails the final page of this issue.  There's a terrific full page spread that is a great cliffhanger and filled with action.  It makes me want the fifth and final issue of B.P.R.D.: 1948 right now.

 

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Also out this week when it comes to horror comics, but not covered here...

 

  • Demon Knights #16 (DC Comics)
  • Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #16 (DC Comics)
  • Dark Shadows #12 (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • The Crow: Skinning The Wolves #2 (IDW Publishing)
  • Black Kiss II #6 (Image Comics)
  • Comeback #3 (Image Comics)
  • Crawling Sky #1 (Antarctic Press)
  • Caligula: Heart Of Rome #2 (Avatar Press)
  • Crossed: Badlands #21 (Avatar Press)
  • Ferals #12 (Avatar Press)
  • Stitched #11 (Avatar Press)
  • Fanboys vs Zombies #10 (BOOM! Studios)
  • Grimm Fairy Tales #81 (Zenescope Entertainment)
  • Grimm Fairy Tales Animated One-Shot (Zenescope Entertainment)

 

And we had just a couple of graphic novels with some choice titles...

 

  • One Trick Rip-Off / Deep-Cuts (Image Comics)
  • Stephen King's Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - Little Sisters Of Eluria (Marvel Comics)

 

That does it for this week's Funny Book Splatter.  You've heard what I thought of the week's horror comics, but I want to hear what was on your pull list.  Let me know in the comments!

 

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