Talk about variety. We've got something for everyone in this week's batch of horror comics. You want vampires? We got your covered. Werewolves? Check. Zombies? Yup. We've even got KISS! Let's get into it.
Planetoid #1 Published by Image Comics Written and Illustrated by Ken Garing $2.99, 34 Pages
A stranded traveler crash lands on a polluted planet covered in space junk. Aided only by whatever was in his evac kit and one really super powered gun, he sets out to find a way off this rock, only to be stopped by huge robots. If Planetoid sounds a little like Prophet, you wouldn't be wrong. It reads like a very similar premise of one man against all odds, out to complete a mission of some kind in a dystopian future world. Replace the aliens in Prophet with robots and you've got Planetoid, although I'm pretty sure there's only one guy this time and not several clones roaming around. I'm not saying this as a bad thing. Prophet has been a really cool book since the relaunch.
Ken Garing wrote, illustrated, and lettered this debut issue. It's clear that he cares deeply for this story. That comes through in the art. You can easily see that this planetoid is a dark and dreary place. It's not a planet like earth with nature in full bloom and lots of green. This is a metallic, industrial landscape with the air filled with smog and the water covered in a filthy sludge. The machines have run this area dry and no organic life can survive.
I like the way that Planetoid is set up, but I'm not entirely sold yet. I'll be interested to see if anyone shows up looking for the gun that our main character (who's name I did not catch) picked up as it's not your usual six-shooter. I love the world that Garing has created, so I want to see how the other people stranded here have come to find a day-to-day life amongst this garbage.
Dracula World Order: The Beginning One Shot Written by Ian Brill Illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey, and Gabriel Hardman $3.99, 28 Pages
Self-publishing a comic is difficult business, but it certainly helps when you have a few very talented friends. Such is the case with Dracula World Order. Ian Brill, writer and creator of the project, put this book out himself, but he managed to pull in some incredibly talented artists to help tell this story.
Dracula has taken over the world. He's turned the most powerful people around the globe into vampires that serve only him. His son Alexandru isn't too happy about this and assembles his own rag-tag group of vampire hunters to take on his old man.
The comic is told in a series of chapters, each one handled by a different artist. There is not a weak one in the bunch. The talent here is overflowing. Tonci Zonjic, fresh off of Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand for Dark Horse, delivers the first chapter that shows a bizarre experiment being held on vampire hunters. As usual, his work is fantastic, with an old school comic vibe to it. Rahsan Ekedal's work is precise and clean. He somehow manages to make an image of a woman bursting into flames look beautiful. Although I love Gabriel Hardman's art (especially his depiction of Frankenstein's monster), Declan Shalvey steals the show in his chapter. His work is pulpy and bloody, which fits the genetic manipulation that's the subject of this portion of the comic. Each panel is unveiled like an old monster movie. You can almost hear a shocking overture playing in the background as a woman is turned into a reptile.
I admire Brill's bravery and determination in self-publishing Dracula World Order. This is a very quick read that will easily leave you wanting more (especially with that ending). Although there's a definite cliffhanger, the comic works on its own too because it establishes such an interesting world. Obviously I hope that we get many more issues of DWO to flesh out the plot though because damn is this cool. This was a very limited release so if you get a chance to pick up a copy, don't hesitate.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #10 Published by Dark Horse Comics Written by Andrew Chambliss & Scott Allie Illustrated by Cliff Richards $2.99, 24 Pages
At long last this ridiculous arc of Buffy comes to a close. The Buffy Bot that has the actual Buffy's mind dukes it out with her real body which has a made up personality. Wow. It sounds even worse when I type it all out like that. This was an awful plot, but it had a handful of good character moments such as Buffy getting an all too brief glimpse of what a normal life would be and Spike finally manning up and stepping out of the slayer's shadow. These first ten issues of season 9 have been all over the place, but after all this nonsense, it looks like the writers are trying to perform some course correction to get the book back to a place that actually makes sense.
Cliff Richards delivers some nice artwork that is overshadowed by how silly the story is. He has some issues with far away shots. Anything that's a close up looks fantastic with a lot of detail and expression, but if the "camera" pulls back a bit to show a full body shot or even an upper body shot, that detail goes away in a big way, leaving strange blobs of people.
I'm sincerely hoping that now that they've gotten the crazy out of their system, authors Andrew Chambliss & Scott Allie can bring this book back to basics: Kicking vampire ass. Judging from the shape of this issue, a couple of things seem pretty obvious. Buffy is going to get picked up by the local police for a special zompire task force. That's convenient because she still has to pay her student loans and working at the coffee shop certainly isn't paying those bills. The rogue slayer of Simone is still out there and I have a feeling that Spike will be the one to hunt her down at a later date. Her escape was very Joker-like and it's clear that the writers want to keep her alive just so they can bring her back another time to cause some mischief.
KISS #1 Published by IDW Publishing Written by Chris Ryall Illustrated by Jamal Igle $3.99, 24 Pages
I will be the first to admit that I am far from a KISS fan. Sure, I know a few of their songs and they certainly bring the rock, but I'm not part of the KISS army. I get that there's a rabid fan base for the band, though, and that's definitely what this comic is geared towards.
Set in Chicago in 1929, the book picks up with a mob boss who has called on the forces of hell to protect his wealth. A mysterious woman empowers four stand up guys with the powers of the Elder, an ancient force for good to bring down the mafia. Of course, these powers come with crazy make-up, long hair, and super human abilities like shooting lasers from your eyes and cat like reflexes.
The KISS comic's premise is a bit ridiculous, but it's actually rather fun. The whole idea is weird, but author Chris Ryall makes it all work. Anyone with a passing knowledge of KISS will be able to jump right into this. Helped along with the story is Jamal Igle's artwork. The basic characters look okay, but Igle really shines when the Elder powers start to come out. The Cat Man has sharp claws and teeth. The Star Man shoots an optic blast that would rival that of Cyclops. All of them are fighting bizarre demons summoned by the mob boss that look like something out of The Darkness.
Alpha Girl #3 Published by Image Comics Written by Jeff Roenning Illustrated by Robert Love $2.99, 26 Pages
In a world where a cosmetics company has turned most of the women into raving zombies, it's tough for a guy to find time to rub one out. That doesn't stop Frank. He's caught in "mid-stroke" by Judith and the two decide to make a break for it together in a typical horror movie escape complete with a truck that won't start right away. Throughout all this mess, they're bashing the undead with baseball bats, chairs, and more.
You will not have more fun reading a comic this week than you will with Alpha Girl. The violence is over-the-top and crazy with some dirty humor thrown in. It's fast moving and emotional and cartoonish, but everything just works together. The book is delving into some of the topics that are overlooked in other zombie tales such as lonely teenage boys and their need to masturbate. That's what makes the comic so much fun.
Robert Love's art complements the sharp dialogue. It meshes with the story perfectly as his zombies are creepy but also funny looking. The characters aren't real people, but they do look like real people that would be in a world like that of Alpha Girl.
Mind the Gap #2 Published by Image Comics Written by Jim McCann Illustrated by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback $2.99, 36 Pages
The murder mystery continues as Elle's spirit bounces into the body of another coma patient. In this short amount of time she's able to speak and feel her surroundings. Unfortunately, she's quickly bounced back to the Garden with the rest of the coma patients with no more knowledge of who attacked her or why. Her guide, Bobby Plangman, explains that she's the only one of them that's able to jump into bodies. She's special. The larger conspiracy is still at work and we're no closer to identifying Elle's attacker...or are we?
I love mysteries like Mind the Gap, but I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to figure out the whodunit until it's revealed. This being a monthly comic, I've forgotten most of the content from the first issue before I started reading this one. McCann includes a helpful recap at the front of the book to get you caught up to speed. Theories are already flying about who's responsible and why. Many of them can be found at the back of the comic. McCann says that there are a ton of clues on every page, but I'm just not seeing how all the dots are connected just yet.
I'm also really digging the artwork from Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback. It's very clean and clear which is essential in a mystery story where the details are important. There's no confusion as to what's going on in each panel which makes going back and looking for clues easier. The real world and the Garden are differentiated by color and background. There's a great two-page spread where the two collide as Elle tries to jump back into her own body.
While I'm probably nowhere near solving this puzzle, I'm enjoying the ride so far.
Night of 1,000 Wolves #2 Published by IDW Publishing Written by Bobby Curnow Illustrated by Dave Wachter $3.99, 24 Pages
A family with their backs against the wall are surrounded by a horde of bloodthirsty wolves, some of which walking on two legs. This is the kind of survival horror that games like Resident Evil wish they could attain. Night of 1,000 Wolves is a condensed story -- split up amongst just three issues -- and crammed with content. Author Bobby Curnow moves the plot very quickly. He's managed to fill each issue with character development, story, and some of the scariest wolves I've ever seen.
That's where you really have to give credit to artist Dave Wachter. These creatures are terrifying. They burst into a room with blood dripping from their muzzles and they want more. The ones on two legs look almost emaciated with their ribs showing through their fur. It's like if they don't eat this family, they might not survive to eat anything else ever again. Wachter brings the gore as this group battles the wolves with axes, arrows, and more. This is a gruesome fight and it's far from over.
Night of 1,000 Wolves is the kind of comic that will leave you with chills. It's definitely convincing me never to set foot in the woods again and to run far away if I ever come into contact with a wolf...or maybe even a big dog. This is horror in the truest sense. It's an unstoppable evil force that wants nothing more than to brutally slaughter this man and his family for reasons that are still unclear. This is some scary shit.
The Strain #5 Published by Dark Horse Comics Written by David Lapham Illustrated by Mike Huddleston $3.50, 24 Pages
After what feels like forever, the adaptation of The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan returns. Instead of carrying that momentum that we had with the vampires popping up all over NYC, we get a flashback issue. Abraham shares a story from his past where he encounters a vampire in a concentration camp during World War II. It's a dark tale and it's one that certainly fits into the overall mythos of this plot, but it feels like a let down, especially since we know that there's a ton of crazy stuff going on with all the other characters.
Mike Huddleston's art is very uneven. Close up shots of characters look great, but any time the panels feature someone a little deeper within the panel, it's as if Huddelston forgets any sense of anatomy. People have very little heads but giant bodies or almost non-existent hands and feet. It really ruins the feel of the book because I can't help but laugh when a huge guy is lumbering about in the background of a scene with a noggin the size of a pea.
Colorist Dan Jackson helps alleviate this a bit. The flashback scene is shown in a very washed out palette, with just blacks, greys, and blues. As things get violent, this makes the blood pop. Similarly, the red on the armbands of the Nazi officers is very prominent. It's a great effect.
While this issue stands on its own as an interesting vampire story, it feels disjointed as part of the current storyline. It did get the point across that the blood suckers have been out there for some time and that Abraham has encountered them years ago. I didn't care much for that though. I want to see what's going on now, not what happened decades ago to a bunch of people who are long dead.
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.