"Semiautomagic" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Alex de Campi
Illustrated by Jerry Ordway
Colored by Marissa Louise
2016, 104 Pages
Trade paperback released on June 29th, 2016
Professor Alice Creed kills monsters. That's really all you need to know to jump into Semiautomagic. She's very knowledgeable and capable of doing the job, regardless of who or what may get in her way. When an otherworldly horror begins stealing souls through a computer game on bit torrent, Alice is called in to put a stop to it. If you think that's weird, just wait until you see what lengths she goes to stop this creature.
Semiautomagic packs an old-school horror punch. Much of this is due to Jerry Ordway's incredible artwork. He has a classic style that is full of fine lines and great detail. At first, Alice and the world around her look completely normal. Then the supernatural elements begin to break through. This is where Ordway really shines. The first such scene is on an airplane where the seatbelts swirl and wrap themselves around Alice's arms and legs. The buckles open in razor sharp teeth. Meanwhile, the in-flight television bursts forth from the seat in front of her with a jaw that looks like a cross between a rattlesnake and a great white shark. This is just the beginning.
Marissa Louise's colors help with that classic look. There's an almost faded appearance to the images, as if they were found in an old copy of Creepy or Eerie. This works well with the artwork and the overall tone of the story.
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The terrors brought forth in Semiautomagic are of the level that H.P. Lovecraft described in his work. These are things that would drive a normal person insane just by looking at them. There are just so many teeth too. Alice isn't fazed by this. She is a seasoned pro and has so many tricks up her sleeves.
It's this aptitude which instantly puts Alice on par with the likes of John Constantine, Mr. Rhee, and Cal Macdonald. She's always prepared and capable of taking on any creature, big or small, that crosses her path. We're introduced to her after she's already been in the field for some time. This is not an origin story and it's better off for it. We get hints at her past and some tragedy within, but we're not spending time watching her get bit by a radioactive Necronomicon or something (although after typing those words, I kind of what to see that now).
Semiautomagic was originally published in short chapters through Dark Horse Presents. As a result, Alice introduces herself repeatedly throughout the book, constantly telling the reader who she is and what she does. This worked perfectly for the original anthology release, but is rather repetitive in the collection. The pacing is helped by this schedule, as every few pages is a startling cliffhanger. It's like the old serials seen in movie theaters decades ago. Every episode ended with the hero in seemingly inescapable danger which they'd wiggle out of somehow at the beginning of the next. Since you're reading all this together, you never get the chance to catch your breath.
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There are actually two stories collected here. They are directly linked as well, making the second story a little more personal than the first. There is just so much to love about the first story though, so it's a clear standout. There's this one moment early on in part one where Alice has entered an old Doom Town, where the government would test bombs on a makeshift town. If you saw the last Indiana Jones movie, it was where the title character survived an atomic bomb explosion by hiding in an old refrigerator. Anyway, Alice is walking past a house filled with dummies sitting at a card table. Just as she passes the window, the dummies turn to look at her, their bodies making a small “KLIK” sound. It's so damn creepy.
Speaking of that first story, Ordway delivers some dynamite art direction within that Doom Town. There's a scene where the shit is really hitting the fan. It seems like reality is warping around everyone. Alice starts to literally fall apart, almost like she's being sliced up into a million little shards. One panel is actually broken up into a puzzle, like she's piecing everything together. It's a gorgeous few pages in an already amazing looking book.
Semiautomagic is a superb horror comic. It introduces a character and her world in such a way that makes perfect sense and leaves you begging for more stories. There are so many little tidbits dropped along the way that make you wish the creative team could spend time exploring them all further. If you want more smart, beautifully drawn, and downright terrifying horror comics, you should buy this book.