"The Showdown: Volume 1 – Creature Feature" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Broken Icon Comics
Written by Russ Lippitt
Illustrated by Tony Guaraldi-Brown
2015, 64 Pages
Graphic Novel released on October 1st, 2015
There doesn't seem to be a lot to do in Hell, right? It's really just supposed to be eternal damnation, so you're in store for lots of suffering, pain, and grief. If The Showdown is to be believed, there's also time for a drag race once a millennium. Hosted by Satan himself, the race is an anything-goes deathmatch where monsters of all shapes and sizes compete for a chance to return to earth and terrorize humanity once again.
I learned all that from the back cover of the book. The actual contents don't make this very clear. The Showdown introduces what could be an amazing concept that's almost like a horror version of that old Hanna Barbara cartoon, Wacky Races. It spends the vast majority of this first volume introducing all the key players, and there are quite a lot of them. In the end, you don't actually get to see the race. This first volume ends just when the cars take off, which was a bit of a letdown.
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Each team gets a one or two-page spread showing the name of each racer in a pinup style. Every aspect of monsterdom is represented here. You've got Frankenstein's monster in The 500s, zombie chicks in The Dead Belles, straight-up skeletons in The Bone Crusaders, werewolves in The Hell Howlers, and vampires in The Night Shifters, goblins in The Rompers, and I can't tell what the last group is, but they're called The Mischiefs and their leader bears a striking resemblance to Doyle from The Misfits. By the time everyone is introduced and chapter one ends, you're more than two-thirds of the way through the book, leaving just enough time to throw the green flag and get the race started. Oh, and that's not even all the teams! There are more, but they just don't get the same treatment as the aforementioned groups.
While all the groups are unique and the idea of having them race each other in increasingly bizarre muscle cars is awesome, I would have liked to see the creators get to the meat of the story sooner. Some of these intros could have been done on the road as the teams start to battle one another. There's not much in the way of story here just yet. If this was a TV show, we would have just gotten through the theme song.
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Artist Tony Guaraldi-Brown has a different style to each team, pulling from the various aspects of the genre to fill the vast roster. There are some great mixes of horror and real-world gangs. For example, the Bone Crusaders are a biker gang and they're friggin' crazy. They're basically Ghost Rider's insane cousins. The Night Shifters are greasers. The Rompers are hooligans.
There's a definite nod to the old school movies of the '50s and '60s in the design of most of the characters, like they'd be at home in a weird version of Grease or American Graffiti (definitely a version I'd love to see). Guaraldi-Brown's style harkens back to that timeframe as a whole too. It has the feel of a comic that you just found in an attic somewhere, like some forgotten treasure.
The Showdown presents a great premise, but stops short on delivering on it. This first volume is short, clocking in at just over 60 pages and as mentioned, most of it serves as character introductions. It might have been better to release the whole series together in a larger graphic novel instead of breaking it up into smaller volumes like this, as it definitely left me hanging. We don't get to actually see what kind of chaos these monsters are capable of when let loose on the open road, but I really want to find out.