"Aleister Arcane" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Originally published as Aleister Arcane #1 - #3
Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Breenn Burns
2004, 104 Pages
Trade paperback released on December 14th, 2016
Aleister Arcane parlays a gig as a TV weatherman into a host of a horror show in his hometown. Unfortunately, his on-air antics offend the sensibilities of the townsfolk, who are worried that the blood and gore would make their children do horrible and violent things. Arcane is eventually forced into retirement and dies alone on the outskirts of town. In death, he'll have his revenge, but is it worth it?
It's easy to compare Arcane's rise to fame to that of Elvira, especially since they both started in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Arcane, he goes back home where he is not nearly as appreciated. In hindsight, I'm not clear why the local station wanted him in the first place. Maybe it was just in an effort to latch on to his popularity without thinking of how the locals would take it. They probably bought out the rights to the character too, which would have prevented Arcane to take his show elsewhere.
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In any case, the title character does more than just play the role of a mad scientist / occultist on TV. He also dabbles in the dark arts, casting a spell that triggers his revenge when he dies. In the time between the initial setup and his death, Arcane befriends some local kids who appreciate his work and respect him as a person. They were the children of the folks that ran him off the air a few years back. It's a sweet story that quickly turns dark when the monsters come out of the woodwork.
Artist Breenn Burns creates a bevy of monsters from every corner of classic horror films. Mummies, zombies, demons, and more begin to roam the streets of the town. The sheer variety is impressive. No two creatures look alike. Any fan of the genre will enjoy hunting through each panel to pick out each and every one.
Burns' style works well with the story, playing up the shadows. Many panels are shown only in silhouette to great effect. The color is light, often appearing in black, white, and grey tones, giving the comic the appearance of an old film. Although you rarely see faces, Burns conveys emotion wonderfully, especially terror. Since you don't often get a direct view of a monster, your mind is filling in the blanks as to how gruesome and menacing it is based on its outline.
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The first chapter of Aleister Arcane is told almost like a storybook. We get the history of the character's rise and fall told to us in big text boxes. Although this is an exposition dump, it doesn't feel like you're being force fed a ton of information. Writer Steve Niles expertly walks you through Arcane's life, keeping it interesting every step of the way.
Aleister Arcane wraps up in a very Twilight Zone-esque way, showing the real monsters are not what's shown late at night on local TV shows, but humanity itself. Everyone learns a valuable lesson. It's a story about revenge, regret, and forgiveness that also shows the innocent way that children can view the world.