Colder #4 Published by Dark Horse Comics Written by Paul Tobin Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra $3.99, 24 Pages
Declan is scared. After snapping out of the near comatose state that he's been in for decades, he's found that he has some unique abilities. His body temperature is much colder than normal people and he's able to cure insanity in the minds of local crazy folk. Unfortunately, this draws the attention of Nimble Jack, a creature that feeds on madness. He sees Declan as a fine wine that has been aged all these years to perfection. In pursuing Declan, Jack kidnaps Reece, the woman that has been taking care of the cold man for the past few months. Now Declan has to somehow save her and prevent her from losing her mind.
The bulk of this issue of Colder takes place in the mind of a lunatic. It's a far more interesting and action-packed comic than most of the super hero books that are on shelves today. Declan is perhaps the only person alive that can successfully walk between our world and that of madness. He understands how that one works and can maneuver around it without going insane. The laws of physics don't apply. At one point he's thrown through a window but ends up falling down through another, only to be shot upwards.
While I love Declan's newfound urge to help others, Nimble Jack steals the show. He's like a force of nature, barreling into the scene to wreak havoc. He's like Mr. Mxyzptlk if he used drunken master martial arts. Jack's movements are liquid and fueled by his imagination. When fighting with Declan, Jack turns into a bear, a giant, and then a wolf. By cycling through these variations, you can see how he can easily manipulate someone into losing their grip on reality.
The story in Colder is great on its own, but it's amplified a thousand fold by Juan Ferreyra's art. He illustrates a world that is crafted with cold grey bricks, fierce monsters, and the madness of thousands of people. It's easily the best visual representation of insanity. To top it off, Ferreyra has filled this place with some of the most disturbing creatures ever to grace the pages of a funny book. Reece is paraded around on a throne made of arms and teeth. Huge dogs roam around her, but their legs are actually giant hands. The granddaddy of them all shows up briefly, towering over Declan with a body missing its skin. Fortunately he makes up for it with three sets of jaws filled with sharp teeth outlining his head.
Colder is a tense thriller that explains mental instability in a way that would make sense even to a crazy person. This is the penultimate issue and it's building up to a huge battle between Declan and Nimble Jack with Reece's mind hanging in the balance. I'm a little excited. I also kind of want ice cream.
Dia De Los Muertos #1 Published by Image Comics Written by Alex Link, Christopher E. Long, and Dirk Manning Illustrated by Riley Rossmo and Jean-Paul Csuka $4.99, 44 Pages
The Mexican celebration for Dia de los Muertos is a big deal. Artist Riley Rossmo has compiled three stories centering on the holiday in this new anthology comic. Rossmo illustrates two of the three tales and provided the layouts and colors for the third.
Each of the stories is a standalone tale, which is a difficult task for any writer. You have to get your point across in twelve pages and have a finished plot by the end. There's no "To Be Continued" here. Fortunately, the writers that Rossmo pulled together accomplish this each time.
"Dead but Dreaming" opens the comic, telling the story of a young woman named Katrina, whose mother died during child birth. Now that Dia de los Muertos is coming up, Katrina feels her mother calling out to her and when she sleeps, she's transported to the next world. The purpose isn't clear, but it's apparent that her mother is watching out for her. Rossmo gives Katrina a realistic look. While she's buxom and wearing a skimpy tanktop and shorts for most of the tale, she's not stick thin with giant boobs. She looks like an actual woman.
"Reflections" is the stand out story. Written by Christopher E. Long, it focuses on a desperate family living in a haunted house. They bring in a "paranormal intuitive life coach" to help figure out what's going on. This man, with the help of spirits in the next world, discovers a dark secret that has been destroying the family from within. He unleashes the full power of the dead to seek revenge. It's a dark tale and one that feels similar to old school Creepy comics.
Finally, Dirk Manning writes a touching closer to the book called “Te Vas Angel Mio”, in which a mariachi singer sees a woman in the crowd that bears a striking resemblance to his dead lover. After the show he chases her down and spends the rest of the evening with her, trying to recapture the flame that he once had. He walks a fine line between accepting that she's gone and hoping against all else that this woman really is his lost love returned to life. There are some questions left unanswered, but the story works better with a little mystery involved.
Rossmo's artwork has really grown on me over the past few months. He's come a long way as an artist and Dia de los Muertos is a perfect testament to that. His characters show a real life to them. They are all uniquely his own in Rossmo's signature style. Dia de los Muertos is continuing next month with a new batch of writers, including frequent Rossmo collaborator Kurtis Wiebe.
Hellboy in Hell #3 Published by Dark Horse Comics Written and Illustrated by Mike Mignola $2.99, 26 Pages
Hellboy has been dead a short time, but he's already making the rounds in Hell. So far he's been in a few fights and came across Satan himself, all the while being led by a mysterious creature who is now revealed to be his uncle. The concept of Hellboy's family never really came into my mind outside of his demon father and his witch mother. This issue sees the introduction of his brothers Gamon and Lusk, and they're not happy that their brother was daddy's favorite. They want what they feel is rightfully theirs: Hellboy's big hand that is the key to the army of Hell. Of course, this means a fight breaks out.
Creator Mike Mignola brings in a very dysfunctional family with this chapter of Hellboy in Hell. Daddy issues are a big part of it, as is sibling rivalry. The dynamic works instantly despite the fact that, outside of Hellboy, I haven't seen these characters before. Of course Gamon and Lusk would want to rule over Hell. They've been sitting in the shadow of their brother for years while the land around them turned to a shriveled husk waiting for Hellboy to return.
Mignola's art continues to impress. Each page of Hellboy in Hell gives the book an even wider scope. This is an epic tale with the main character taking a journey through all of the dark corners of the underworld. He encounters tons of bizarre creatures and some of them literally pop up out of nowhere. Mignola can bounce between tight panels with close up shots of the characters and then pull back to reveal a massive building or a hulking monster tearing through the ground. He does this seamlessly and keeps the book moving at a brisk pace. His work is the kind that you can go back and re-read, picking up bits and pieces that you missed during your first time through.
Hellboy's trip through Hell is far from over. Although it's only just beginning, he's been forced to confront many aspects of his past that he would have rather not remembered, most notably his lineage. Despite the fact that he's fought his destiny for so long, he's found himself face-to-face with it now that he's dead.
The Crow: Skinning the Wolves #3 Published by IDW Publishing Story & Breakdowns by James O'Barr Written & Illustrated by Jim Terry $3.99, 24 Pages
The Crow is a being of vengeance, so what better place for it to manifest than a concentration camp during World War II? That's been the premise behind Skinning the Wolves, which wraps up with this issue. A prisoner comes back to life after he and his family are killed by a sadistic Nazi officer. Now he's back to terrorize the soldiers. He's doing this by literally tearing through them. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was easy on the Nazis compared to what they're put through here.
That's really all that this comic boils down to. I'm not defending the Nazis by any means. That's the last thing I need. "Local comic book reviewer is a Nazi sympathizer." That's not the case. Kill those mass-murdering fuck heads (if I may borrow the term from Eddie Izzard). There's just not much else to the story. The prisoner, whose name I cannot recall from the previous issues and isn't mentioned in this one, takes on the persona of everyone who was ever wronged in WWII. As a result, every one of the soldiers in the camp must pay. None of them are left standing and most are not in one piece when they hit the ground. It's a senseless, bloody siege of the camp.
Jim Terry's artwork provides a nice balance between the present day violence and the flashbacks to the past. We're shown the prisoner's final moments as he defeats the Nazi officer in chess. Unfortunately this guy is a sore loser and shoots the man's wife in the face. These panels are drab and lacking in almost all emotion. Terry and colorist Tom Zinko made these scenes devoid of color, like they're copies of a memory. Meanwhile, the sections in the present are visceral and frantic. The Crow may be in the body of a starved skeleton of a man, but he's full of life and hatred for those around him. Every one of them must pay.
This was only a three-issue mini-series, but I don't think that extra issues would have helped the story any. It's a pretty basic revenge story, but it lacks the twists and emotion that showed up in the earlier works. It's really heavy on Nazi violence though. If you hate Nazis, then you'll revel in Skinning the Wolves.
Repossessed #2 Published by Image Comics Written & Illustrated by JM Ringuet $2.99, 32 Pages
The Dee Agency is searching for Sarah Gold, a young woman who is allegedly possessed. Their first stop in Las Vegas was a bust and almost destroyed the team as they fought the biker demon Vetis. The case brings them to a strip club and a gang with a lot of guns. They're turned on to a rock band in the area and head out to look for Sarah. Of course, another demon attacks. I'm starting to notice a pattern.
The first two issues of Repossessed follow a near identical formula. The agents stumble upon a demon while on their case and then they have to punch it really hard. They don't seem to have a great handle on what they're doing or how they should fight these things. Hitting stuff has been done over and over again with Hellboy, and these characters are not nearly interesting enough to work on that level. Instead they fulfill the roles of stereotypical badasses who are too cool to follow rules or do anything by the book...despite needing a book to read out the exorcism ritual.
This chapter does give Martha, the lone woman on the team, time to shine. She works her feminine wiles on the rock singer to find out if he's possessed or not, whipping out talismans to fight the demon. She proves that she can hold her own against these big bads.
JM Ringuet's artwork is a little pulpy and works well with the subject matter. He gave everything a look that's a little washed out, like the comic was just found in an old, musty box in an attic somewhere or it had been sitting in the sun for a long time. As with the previous issue, the demon is what stands out. The one this time is a snake creature with three heads and arms. I guess that negates it from being a snake, but you get what I mean. It slithers. It looks like it's made of fire with blood-red scales. The fact that it's literally shooting flames from its mouth probably helps.
Also on comic shelves this week but not reviewed here due to time or other constraints...
Willow #4 (Dark Horse Comics)
Animal Man #17 (DC Comics)
Swamp Thing #17 (DC Comics)
Army of Darkness #10 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Prophecy #7 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Vampirella Strikes #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)
'68 Scars #4 (Image Comics)
Blackacre #3 (Image Comics)
Perhapanauts: Danger Down Under #4 (Image Comics)
Last Zombie: Before The After #3 (Antarctic Press)
Caligula: Heart Of Rome #3 (Avatar Press)
Night Of The Living Dead: Aftermath #4 (Avatar Press)
Harvey Horrors Collected Works: Tomb Of Terror - Vol 1 HC Slipcase Edition (PS Artbooks)
Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Bad Girls (Zenescope Entertainment)
That does it for this belated edition of Funny Book Splatter. You've heard me ramble on about the week's horror comics, but I want to hear about what was on your pull list. Let me know in the comments!
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.