"Evil Jester Presents #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Evil Jester Comics
Stories by Jack Ketchum, Joe McKinney, William F. Nolan, and Jonathan Maberry
Adapted by Taylor Grant and Aric Sundquist
Illustrated by Beni Lobel, Esteve Polls, Salva Navarro, and Nacho Arranz
2013, 32 Pages
Comic released in December 2013
It's amazing how influential the old horror comics like Creepy, Eerie, and Tales from the Crypt were for an entire generation of writers and artists. They served as the gateway to the genre for many talented people who went on the create some really scary stuff. Keeping that tradition alive is new publisher Evil Jester Comics with its premiere issue of Evil Jester Presents, a horror anthology collecting adaptations of work from Jack Ketchum, Joe McKinney, William F. Nolan, and Jonathan Maberry.
As with the anthologies of old, there's a brief introduction by the Evil Jester himself. While he's a scary looking creature, he's not as spooky or as interesting as Uncle Creepy or the Crypt Keeper. The Evil Jester only appears with on a single page at the front of the issue. He doesn't provide commentary on the individual stories.
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The first story collected in Evil Jester Presents is Jack Ketchum’s Bram Stoker Award winning The Box. Adapted by Evil Jester Comics CEO Taylor Grant, it follows a man as he watches his family waste away after his son catches a glimpse of the contents of a box held by a stranger on the subway. You never find out what was actually inside or what would cause his son to stop eating. This spreads to his daughters and wife and there's nothing he can do. This is an unsettling plot as his family seems perfectly content to slowly die.
Beni Lobel's artwork on The Box helps show the severity of the boy's situation in a subtle way. It starts out slow but Lobel begins to show the young man losing weight through his gaunt eyes until he starts to look like a skeleton with skin. Meanwhile, the father has this hollow look on his face throughout the entire story. He has no external reaction to the prolonged death of his entire family.
Joe McKinney's Swallowed and William F. Nolan's Small World are two short stories with great twist endings. Swallowed is about a large snake looking to eat up a little boy, while Small World centers on a man on the run from whatever lurks the streets after an alien invasion. The former works like a great setup for a movie while the latter is like a Twilight Zone episode. Esteve Polls' artwork on Swallowed stands out as the best of the issue. There's a rural quality to it that matches the setting. It makes it all the more frightening when things get crazy.
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Closing the issue is Like Part of the Family by Jonathan Maberry, following a private eye looking to stop a low life ex-husband from harassing his former spouse. Things aren't what they seem on the surface as his client's ex is actually a vampire and he's brought friends. Out of the four stories included in Evil Jester Presents, this is the one that feels most like the first issue of an ongoing series. While there have been supernatural detective stories such as Criminal Macabre, this one has a unique spin on it that makes it pretty cool. Obviously, I'm not revealing it here because it's a big spoiler.
Nacho Arranz's artwork is pretty solid but he's taken some shortcuts such as using actual photographs of money instead of drawing it. His characters look like they'd be at home in animation. As such, the fight scene in the story is great and filled with action. There's a very impressive transformation shot towards the end of the tale that really stands out.
Evil Jester Presents set out to pay homage to the old horror anthology comics of old and it succeeded. For an indie publisher, there are some big names attached to this project. I'm interested to see what would come in future issues. The base is built on these authors that have already made a name for themselves in the business, but what kind of up-and-coming creators can get a chance at their big break in the title?