Sunday, July 31, 2016

21st Century Horror Comics

Severed (2012/Collected 2013): written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft; illustrated by Attilla Futaki: This dark, often Bradbury-esque road story, set in early 20th-century America, is a mostly solid piece of horror from Snyder, Tuft, and artist Futaki. The first half or so seems more compelling than the second, possibly because the graphic novel jettisons its most interesting character about halfway through. And it does so in a way that makes no sense in relation to how that character has been developed to that point. 

After that, about one issue's worth of material gets smeared across three issues of pages, like too little butter scraped across too much bread (thanks, Tolkien!). Futaki's art is moody and horrifying when it needs to be, though he has a devil of a time maintaining consistency with the faces of the main characters. The monster is horrible, and he gets to deliver a lengthy speech about why he's horrible. Recommended with some reservations.

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft (2009/ Collected 2010): written by Mac Carter; illustrated by Tony Salmons and Adam Byrne: Something of an oddity, this -- a comic book about H.P. Lovecraft that plays extremely fast and loose with the actual details of his life so as to turn him into a forlorn Romantic who hates his home town of Providence. It's part of that large and often annoying corpus in which both Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos co-exist in actuality, simultaneously. 

However, it's not a documentary, so one goes along with Lovecraft the unrequited lover of a sexy Providence librarian in the early 1920's, or doesn't go along, depending on how compelling the story is. And it's not a terrible story -- Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' superior Providence has pretty much the same basic set-up, with HPL as the gateway for the Old Ones. Their HPL resonates with a careful attention to actual history, though: this one gets boring every time he gets lovelorn and mopey, and that happens a lot.

Artist Tony Salmons is great with the goopy, tenticular horrors of the story. The lay-outs sometimes get away from him (is this a scripting problem or an art problem?), causing several pages to become incomprehensible. Having Salmons handle the more outlandish moments and another, more normative artist handle the day-to-day material might have resulted in a much more interesting book. Still, I've always liked Salmons -- boring he is not.

Mac Carter's writing comes and goes. Lovelorn, Providence-hating HPL is a tough sell to anyone who's read much of anything about or by Lovecraft. Actual quotes from HPL weave in and out of the narrative, mostly effectively except when they highlight how much better a writer HPL was than Mac Carter is. A jokey quality undermines many scenes, eradicating horror. Very lightly recommended.

Outcast Volume 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him (2014/Collected 2015): written by Robert Kirkman; illustrated by Paul Azaceta: The TV series adapted from the Outcast comic series has so far been very faithful to the comic, which I guess is what you get when the comic book's creator controls the TV show. The first six issues here are a nice, under-stated piece of horror that gestures towards the epic that awaits just over the horizon. Kirkman's writing is sharper here than it has been for years on The Walking Dead: supernatural horror without zombies seems to have reinvigorated him.

Paul Azaceta's art is what we once called European before David Mazzuchelli drew Batman: Year One: understated and representational, sometimes a bit too understated and too much like late 1980's Mazzuchelli. Still, it's mostly lovely work, much of it rendered in subdued and mournful colours. Recommended.

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