Tag Archives: horror

FantaCo Returns to Comic Stores in July

FantaCo has announced its return to comic shops this July with a focus on horror and three releases.

FantaCo began in July 1968 as an extension of a mail order company and comic shop. FantaCo was registered as a coproration in August 1978 with a store and combining the mail order company and publishing under one roof. That lead to FantaCon in 1979.

Primarily known for horror the publisher has worked with John Byrne, Frank Miller, Dave Cochran, Kevin Eastman, Michael Kaluta, Steve Bissette, Steve Niles, Clive Barker, George Romero, Dario Argento, Bernie Wrightson, Tom Savini, Forry Ackerman, Dennis Kitchen, Jeffrey Jones, Spain, Phil Seuling and many of the artists that they published for the first time have gone on to become very well-known, like Greg Capullo, Mike Dubisch and more.

The publisher never stopped publishing. Instead they focused on Kickstarters and selling comics and books through their website, Amazon, and more. Their return to store shelves is due to demand and they will be introducing their entire catalog to direct market retailers according to publisher Tom Skulan.

This July you’ll find:

The Monster Art of Basil Gogos

Hundreds of drawings, paintings, sketches by the “Famous Monster Artist of Filmland’” Basil Gogos, in a 200 page plus softcover. Produced in full color to give the artist’s work the depth and detail it deserves, this new book features a behind the scenes look into the art and techniques used by the legendary cover artist to create his iconic monster paintings. A great many images have never been published before.

The Monster Art of Basil Gogos

Deep Red Vol 4 Number 1

Chas Balun’s “Gonzo-Gore Splatter mag” is back, featuring all new articles, photos, reviews and interviews with the bloodiest filmmakers, actors and artists. The original “Splat-Pack” are back, talking about new and old classic genre films and lost classics. Edited by ‘Bram Stoker award’ nominee and author of Xeorx Ferox, John Walter Szpunar, Deep Red is back and “here is blood in your eye,” for a new generation splatter fans.

Deep Red Vol 4 Number 1

DarkARTs Vol.1

The dark art work of five of today’s artists is featured in this ‘over-sized’ 11×17 portfolio sized book, including covers, pinups, and selected dark works by Marcelo Trom, Jim Whiting, Ahmed Raafat, Raymond Lowell, and Nate Osborne. DarkARTS presents each artist’s work as it was meant to be seen, in the original oversize.

DarkARTs Vol.1

Movie Review: Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day 2U is the sequel we didn’t need to the PG-13 slasher movie we didn’t think was going to be that great but was unexpectedly fun. In my review of the original, I compared it to grocery store birthday sheet cake in terms of its simplicity but also satisfying nature.

Unfortunately the sequel is not as good, as if the birthday cake, missing several large chunks decided to fill them in with extra frosting and sprinkles, turning it into an overly sugary mess rather than a satisfying treat. The original worked because it was in many ways just an homage to so many films before it: Groundhog Day, Vertigo, and too many slasher movies to name. But at its heart it was a mystery, and we were invested in the characters, especially our protagonist Tree (Jessica Rothe), her growth, and finding out who her killer was.

The original conceit of living the same day over and over again was fun, but the sequel takes a bit of the mystery and charm out of it by trying to explain it through science! in order to set up a literal deus ex machina ending to fix things at the end. It also sets up and inevitable third chapter, so stick around to midway through the credits for a stinger giving you an idea of what’s coming next.

Perhaps the best thing about the original was how we rooted for the protagonist tree. She started off as a horrible garbage person and bit by bit became better until we began rooting for her instead of rooting for her to be viciously murdered because we hated her. It was a story about redemption, and you just can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

Instead we get some interesting musings about what life might be like in alternative universes his choices were made differently and circumstances were different how our lives might turn out. It’s nice, but not as interesting as the first time around.

Also gone was some of the layers of social commentary that Blumhouse is often able to put in to their horror films. While the first Happy Death Day had some things to say about college life and rape culture, this film seems to care more about just going through the motions of the sequel.

While it loses most of the charm and novelty of the first film, Rothe is still incredibly fun and engaging to watch. The rest of the cast. . . are less so.

Still, you could do far worse with a horror sequel, especially in the PG-13 rating. Fans of the original will come back for a second helping even if it is diminishing returns on the first slice of birthday cake. Let’s hope they can bring us something better in a third installment.

2 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Halloween

halloween-poster-2018This sequel to the original Halloween pretends its sequels never happened, and, upon jettisoning four decades of history, brings us the best reinvention of the story of Michael Myers ever. Finally, we have a worthy sequel to the film that helped define the slasher genre.

While this is almost a cliche, the best way to describe this film is “all killer, no filler.” Indeed, including flashbacks to the original film, you go nary 15 minutes in this film without someone getting brutally murdered by Michael Myers.

The film plays very close to the structure of the original: Michael Myers, in an asylum, nearing the anniversary of his murders, is visited by two real-crime podcasters (how very 2018!) who want to interview him ahead of his transfer to another facility.

His doctor introduces them, and they go about further investigating the murders that happened 40 years ago, including an interview with a fairly off-kilter and paranoid Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) the sole survivor of Myers’ previous spree. Just like the original, our monster breaks out during the transfer and returns to his hometown to go on a murder spree.

The only difference is, this time Laurie has been preparing for 40 years for this very moment. In some of the film’s best parts, and a supreme twist of fate, Myers becomes the hunted and she becomes the hunter. And this is where the film becomes wholly different and its own thing.

She is joined in this with both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who have varying degrees of tolerance for their mother/grandmother’s nuttery. To be fair, the elder Strode very much seems to have gone off the deep end, and hearing that Myers is back confirms all of her fears and preparation as realism, not paranoia.

The best surprise of the film is having this Trinity of three generations of strong women uniting to fight this unstoppable evil. It takes the first film’s rumination on purity and power and makes it a culturally relevant feminist coup de grace for today. The Strode women, divided by generations and outlooks on the world, when united are the only force that even comes close to counteracting Myers.

The other great surprise of the film is just how funny it is. Screenwriter Danny McBride and screenwriter/directorDavid Gordon Greenwho are normally more adept at stoner comedy (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, Eastbound and Down) put some really amazing touches on here to help break the tension. While the film is all killer, no filler, in between the kills we often get moments of levity that help set up the characters who are about to die gruesome deaths at the hands of Michael Myers and the stakes of the next phase of murder sprees.

Yes, it’s also extremely brutal. This film earns its R rating with some truly gross special effects that we haven’t seen outside of a Troma film in a long while. Also, apparently in this universe blood spurts very very very loudly! There are also a few moments involving impaling, or people’s heads being smashed in, that are on full display here. Horror and slasher fans will be delighted.

Again, it’s almost played for comical effect, and helps lighten the tone of what would otherwise be so dark and depressing. But the film never enters into camp, always staying on the right side of the slasher genre. While it knows that some of the campy elements are necessary, it keeps its funny parts funny and violent parts brutal.

The other great thing about this film is it does not present a great barrier to anyone who has never seen a Halloween film before. It sets up its universe extremely well and establishes its characters even without knowledge of the previous material. However, for die-hard true fans there are a lot of nods to the original that make you feel right at home. This also includes a return of the iconic John Carpenter score, which is as effective now as it was four decades ago.

Fans will eat this film up, and general audiences will likely have a good time as well, though maybe not as good of a time as the core audience. In this way it’s very much like the films in the Marvel franchise where there is a definite fanbase who will enjoy the film at a different level, but there is a strong mass appeal as well as a low bar for entry.

This is not only a great Halloween film, it is a great film for Halloween time. The slasher movie is a tried-and-true staple of the horror genre and especially popular this time of year. Audiences will find the tricks and treats that they so desire here and will be thoroughly satisfied.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Review: No. 1 With A Bullet #3

In No. 1 With A Bullet #3, writer Jacob Semahn, artist Jorge Corona, and colorist Jen Hickman go full David Fincher while still spending plenty of time showing Nash Huang coming to grips with the public’s reaction to a leaked video (Via high tech contact lenses.) of her having sex with her old boss Jad Davies. She also has a stalker who likes to leave Bible verses in blood in her apartment, and the first bits of the comic are Nash talking to a fairly friendly and empathetic police officer. The midway point of this series starts as a lot of (good) unpacking and fallout, but then Semahn, Corona, and Hickman slam down on the gas with an adrenaline packed sequence that seems to all be in the protagonist’s head, but actually has very real consequences. Because “it was all a dream” is such a cop out.

Corona’s layouts in the first half of No. 1 With A Bullet #3 are fairly traditional with nine panel grids and talking TV heads that wouldn’t be out of place with some of the big comic book hits of 1986. But his figures are quirky and idosyncratic as ever. As exhibited by books like Mister Miracle this past year, there’s nothing wrong with a nine panel grid if it’s used in a creative way to add layers to a story instead of having talking head dialogue. For the most part, Corona and Hickman nail this part like when Jad, who is a little apologetic after losing his big shot media job, is maybe a little too “sorry” on the phone with his sleazy fixer/PR buddy Maddox. Corona never shows Maddox; he is the man behind the curtain, and instead focuses on a freaking out Jad or the news cameras slowing wheeling up to his house. To pick a very contemporary example, he is like YouTuber Logan Paul and is backpedaling and freaking out not because he understands that he has violated a woman’s privacy and sexually assaulted her via technology, but because he got caught and has less chances at getting money and power. Hickman chooses grey for most of these panels that fits perfectly with his glum mood and the fact that Maddox is using “grey areas” to protect his client.

However, No. 1 With A Bullet #3 isn’t all media reactions and excellent commentary about how men who “perform” in leaked sex videos are treated like studs or at least are allowed a second chance while women are slut shamed. This second theme does give the book real world relevance, including sobering commentary from the victim of the Black Dahlia Murders about how people would rather have a lurid tabloid story than think about victims as people. This sequence happens in a semi horror/semi hallucination/not-so-guided tour of the Museum of Death, which Nash’s hemorrhaging artist friend thinks would be a great way to get her to relax. When they’re in the museum, all bets and Jorge Corona grid compositions are off and replaced with tilting and moving panels plus plenty of negative space. There’s the usual harbingers of the macabre, like skeletons and clowns, coupled with negative social media comments about Nash that make her feel trapped in a scary space. It’s a reminder of that classic horror saying that humans, especially powerful, unapologetic men, are the real monsters.

Even though the events of the story take a much needed turn for the traditional horror, Jacob Semahn, Jorge Corona, and Jen Hickman continue to find No. 1 with a Bullet #3’s scariest and most insightful moments in a slightly heightened version of the real world.

Story: Jacob Semahn Art: Jorge Corona Colors: Jen Hickman
Story: 7.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: No. 1 With A Bullet #1

Unlike their previous Image series Goners, which was inspired by the classic 1980s kids vs monsters genre, writer Jacob Semahn, artist Jorge Corona, and colorist Jen Hickman go for the present and future in No. 1 With A Bullet #1. The comic’s protagonist Nash Huang, a young queer woman, who is the assistant to celebrity talk show host Jad Davies and tests out special contact lenses that record everything around her and create artificial stimulus and sensations. In the wrong (or anyone’s) hands, this new tech could be creepy as hell. Jad is like Chris Hardwick yet creepier even if Semahn and Corona don’t flesh him out a lot in the first issue choosing to focus on a day in the life of Nash that starts freaky when she puts, gets normal, and yes, gets freaky to close out the book.

Jen Hickman’s disorienting yellow, black, and bloody red color palette is the real MVP of No. 1 With A Bullet‘s opening sequence. The leeching and bloodletting of Hollywood is almost literal from Corona’s opening title page of spurting blood covering the office of Jad Davies. The first few pages are intense and immersive with colors that shock and awe before pulling back and starting to build up the character of Nash and the series’ theme of invasion of privacy, and the fact that through the Internet almost anyone could ruin our lives. Conversations and activities that we once thought we thought are private could be recorded either through audio or video or live tweeted by some complete or utter stranger.

The ability to be hacked, framed, or having your private moments made public is the engine that drives the horror of No. 1 With A Bullet. It’s scary because its real; this comic (and sort of the recent Instagram generation dark stalker comedy Ingrid Goes West) made me seriously consider putting all my social media accounts or private or locked. However, Corona’s bendy anatomy and Hickman’s sometimes desert sunset, sometimes zonked out urban wasteland (The scenes where Nash runs errands in the city.) color palette keep the comic more stylized and less documentary style.

Along with the Jen Hickman’s colors and the surreal, futuristic meets this-could-be-the present images of Jorge Corona, Jacob Semahn’s strong characterization She isn’t a Final Girl, damsel in distress, or pick your trope and take a shot character, but a human woman with flaws, virtues, realistic relationships, and a sense of humor. She loves her partner, Violet, checks Twitter way too much, sometimes says problematic things, and maybe works a little too hard at her low rung on the Hollywood ladder job. Semahn’s grounded writing of Nash gives readers an anchor in the reality bending weirdness of No. 1 with A Bullet.

Social media offers a way to become famous, infamous, or something between with a hacked iCloud server or an unintentional drunk tweet or private message having scary consequences. Jacob Semahn, Jorge Corona, and Jen Hickman channel this primal, yet technological fear in No. 1 with A Bullet and chase it with colorscapes that will be seared into your brain and a main character that you will want to grab a drink and maybe hug.

Story: Jacob Semahn Art: Jorge Corona Colors: Jen Hickman
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Advance Review: No. 1 With A Bullet #1

Unlike their previous Image series Goners, which was inspired by the classic 1980s kids vs monsters genre, writer Jacob Semahn, artist Jorge Corona, and colorist Jen Hickman go for the present and future in No. 1 With A Bullet #1. The comic’s protagonist Nash Huang, a young queer woman, who is the assistant to celebrity talk show host Jad Davies and tests out special contact lenses that record everything around her and create artificial stimulus and sensations. In the wrong (or anyone’s) hands, this new tech could be creepy as hell. Jad is like Chris Hardwick yet creepier even if Semahn and Corona don’t flesh him out a lot in the first issue choosing to focus on a day in the life of Nash that starts freaky when she puts, gets normal, and yes, gets freaky to close out the book.

Jen Hickman’s disorienting yellow, black, and bloody red color palette is the real MVP of No. 1 With A Bullet‘s opening sequence. The leeching and bloodletting of Hollywood is almost literal from Corona’s opening title page of spurting blood covering the office of Jad Davies. The first few pages are intense and immersive with colors that shock and awe before pulling back and starting to build up the character of Nash and the series’ theme of invasion of privacy, and the fact that through the Internet almost anyone could ruin our lives. Conversations and activities that we once thought we thought are private could be recorded either through audio or video or live tweeted by some complete or utter stranger.

The ability to be hacked, framed, or having your private moments made public is the engine that drives the horror of No. 1 With A Bullet. It’s scary because its real; this comic (and sort of the recent Instagram generation dark stalker comedy Ingrid Goes West) made me seriously consider putting all my social media accounts or private or locked. However, Corona’s bendy anatomy and Hickman’s sometimes desert sunset, sometimes zonked out urban wasteland (The scenes where Nash runs errands in the city.) color palette keep the comic more stylized and less documentary style.

Along with the Jen Hickman’s colors and the surreal, futuristic meets this-could-be-the present images of Jorge Corona, Jacob Semahn’s strong characterization She isn’t a Final Girl, damsel in distress, or pick your trope and take a shot character, but a human woman with flaws, virtues, realistic relationships, and a sense of humor. She loves her partner, Violet, checks Twitter way too much, sometimes says problematic things, and maybe works a little too hard at her low rung on the Hollywood ladder job. Semahn’s grounded writing of Nash gives readers an anchor in the reality bending weirdness of No. 1 with A Bullet.

Social media offers a way to become famous, infamous, or something between with a hacked iCloud server or an unintentional drunk tweet or private message having scary consequences. Jacob Semahn, Jorge Corona, and Jen Hickman channel this primal, yet technological fear in No. 1 with A Bullet and chase it with colorscapes that will be seared into your brain and a main character that you will want to grab a drink and maybe hug when the comic drops in November.

Story: Jacob Semahn Art: Jorge Corona Colors: Jen Hickman
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Movie Review: IT

IT posterContent Warning / Trigger Warning: Sewer Clowns.

The new adaptation of Stephen King‘s It starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Clown is one of the best scary movies in a long time and even puts itself in the running for one of the best adaptations of King’s work. It’s scary. It’s funny. It’s nostalgic. But most of all, it keeps the focus where it should be — on the kids who call themselves “The Losers Club” — to deliver a poignant, touching story about growing up, loss, fear, and grief. And on top of that, it’s just a great scary movie.

But it’s not just a scary movie. Most surprising is just how funny it is at times. The Losers Club talk more like the kids from South Park (and therefore like your average 13 year old) and the humor helps cut the tension in important ways.

And yes, the film is scary. And not just in the easy-jump-scare-loud-noise scare we’ve become accustomed to. Since the monster feeds on fears, we see supremely disturbing and scary images brought to life. This is layered on top of super-creepy atmosphere that lurks under the idyllic charms of small town pastiche.

Director Andy Muschietti understands his craft and understands how to layer on the fright. Like any good magic trick, there’s the set up, suspense building, and the big reveal.

And the big reveal here is the film’s Pennywise the Clown. While they certainly show plenty of Pennywise in the film, they definitely take a less-is-more approach with him. Bill Skarsgård is fantastic. He’s taking as much of a page from Heath Ledger’s Joker (and Mark Hamill’s Joker) as he is from Tim Curry’s portrayal, and the results are creepy and intense.

The less-is-more approach with Pennywise means the focus ends up back where it belongs: the kids. And these kids are fantastic. Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent, Midnight Special) gets top billing as Bill, whose brother George is the first victim in the film. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) is another familiar face who is no stranger to the nostalgia-laden horror story. But here he really gets to break loose as the kid with the dirtiest mouth and dirtiest mind, giving breath to the unfettered id that it is to be a 13 year old boy.

But the best performance among them is from Sophia Lillis, the lone female in the Losers Club. She is both independent and strong, while also vulnerable and scared. With her home life as much of a hellscape as anything involving evil sewer clowns, she brings an extra layer of emotion beyond anything any of the boys do.

Gone are so many of the affectations and deep worldbuilding of King’s original story– and it’s for the better. There is no jumping back and forth between times and adult and child versions of the main characters. There is no greater mysticism, giant turtles or spiders, or mumbo-jumbo. There is (thankfully) no child orgy. By jettisoning so much of this and focusing on a simple monster vs. kids story, we get the distilled essence of what makes King’s story work in the first place.

Purists will definitely have a problem with this adaptation, but one way to approach this is that the film seems more inspired by other great Stephen King adaptations, like Stand By Me, and other classic 80’s kid-centric adventure movies like The Goonies, Space Camp, Flight of the Navigator, D.A.R.Y.L., Big, War Games, Weird Science, The Neverending Story, or Explorers than by the original source material. But, fear not– the film leaves itself wide open for the inevitable sequel, ostensibly the story of the adult versions of our characters. . . which would be set today.

The movie makes possibly the smartest choice of all in making this a period piece set in the 80’s. Not only does that allow for maximum nostalgia, but it also keeps the story simple. Without things like cell phones, social media, helicopter parenting, etc, it makes it normal for kids to be outside riding their bikes, exploring sewers, and swimming in quarries. Yes, it even has a “cleaning up” montage with a jaunty soundtrack (in this case The Cure’s “Six Different Ways” — a deep cut from one of their best and most under-recognized albums). There are also dozens of Easter Eggs throughout the movie, from the movies on the marquee of the local theater to posters the kids have on their walls. It’s enough to make any 80’s or 90’s kid’s heart flutter.

And this is, again, where the film draws smartly from things like Stand By Me. The same sort of childhood nostalgia for the 1950’s audiences had in the 80’s (see also Back to the Future) is what many audiences feel now. So of course it makes sense to update this and set the film in the 80’s.

It is not a perfect film. It suffers from a few convenient plot holes and contrivances, but no worse than your average Marvel movie. And despite wearing its heart on its sleeve when confronting fears and grief, it doesn’t feel like we’re treading any really new ground here. That could be because we’re talking about the adaptation of a thirty year old novel. Or it could be that any film that comes out in 2017, especially of the horror genre, is going to have to stack up against the social commentary and innovation of Get Out. 

So it’s not the rebirth of cool– so what? It’s still an incredibly fun flick that will make you spill your popcorn bucket in fright and make you nostalgic for 1989 and that awesome, scary, fun time of being 13. You’ll float, too.

4 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Wish Upon

wish_upon_posterIf you had a magic Chinese wishing box to give you seven wishes, what would you use it for? Smart theatergoers will wish for a better movie– one that doesn’t so hamfistedly telegraph its next moves and bungle its attempt at social commentary, especially by reinforcing some damaging Asian stereotypes.

Our main character is Clare, who despite being friends with Barb from Stranger Things and a sassy, video game obsessed black best friend, is a target of bullying from the resident mean girl queen bee of their high school. One of the reasons for her lower social caste is her father Ryan Phillipe‘s main vocation as a junk picker– and not the kind who has his own reality tv show.

When one day he finds a strange box with Chinese writing on it, he gives it to Clare, who conveniently happens to be taking Chinese in high school. While most of the writing is indecipherable, she can read two words: “Seven Wishes.” When she later inadvertently wishes for said Regina George wannabe to “just rot or something,” it turns out her tormentor wakes up the next day with necrotizing fasciitis— yup, flesh-eating bacteria.

But because this is some crazy Chinese monkey paw folk magic type stuff, of course each wish comes with a “blood price,” first taking her dog for the  price of smiting her bully. And, of course, every time Clare makes a wish, we get to see karmic retribution take its toll. These get incredibly more ridiculous as the film goes along.

This is the main problem with the film. Although sometimes the film tries to trick you with where it’s going by presenting multiple death options, it’s just not really fun, satisfying, or entertaining in, say, the way a Final Destination or Saw movie is. And in a year where you’re competing in the low budget horror genre with Get Outthis just does not stack up well. But, at least it’s better than Split

Speaking of its social message, the film really tries hard to tackle modern high school, bullying, and social media. But none of it really lands, or even adds much to the film. And in a somewhat tonedeaf manner it casts Ki Hong Lee (Dong from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Minho from The Maze Runner movies) as Ryan, aka “Exposition Boy” who just happens to have a scholarly cousin who can decipher ancient Chinese writing.

[Minor spoilers ahead] But while Clare uses her wishes to gain the affections of Paul, a blonde white dude, Ryan is relegated to backup status, with a conversation that maybe somewhere there’s an alternate universe where they’re dating. This is an incredibly damaging trope for the Asian community, sending subconscious messages that Asian men are never fit to be romantic leads or boyfriend material, but are merely sexless confidantes and sources of information. Seriously, Ryan’s ability to do internet research and explain the backstory of our Chinese wishing box is the most scary supernatural element in this entire film. And while some may argue that the film’s denouemont “fixes” this, five minutes of conclusion doesn’t make up for the previous 85 minutes of borderline white supremacy. For a film which otherwise has such a diverse cast, it’s unfortunate it made this problematic blunder.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this movie is that Ryan Phillipe is now old enough to convincingly play the father of a teenager. But otherwise this is a fairly bland and predictable teen horror film.

1.5 stars out of 5

Review: Winnebago Graveyard #1

Winnebago Graveyard #1 is a freaky as fuck. I don’t know why I decided to wait until almost 11 PM the night before it came out to read and review it. I haven’t been this terrified by a comic book since Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches. Steve Niles, Alison Sampson, and Stephane Paitreau open the book in a crescendo of flame, gore, and ritual cultist nudity, switch over to domestic drama for a second, and then conclude by invoking one of the scariest settings of all: the old roadside amusement park. The setup of the comic is pretty simple: a father is taking his first vacation together with his wife and stepson and instead of going to one of the Disneys, Six Flags, or a solid, corporately branded theme park, they and their RV stop by the decrepit ruins of a carnival. And the dad makes them leave their phones in the car because he is a complete and utter dumbass. (Or connected to the cult in the cold open, who knows?)

The opening few pages are a master class in using pacing and especially color to set the mood of a comic, and the final few pages are a similar master class in how to do suspense. Niles and Sampson avoid jump scares and sink us deeper and deeper into this Southwestern wasteland. One thing that helps with Winnebago Graveyard”s overall tenseness is that the characters look and act like ordinary human beings. Sampson’s figures are photo-realistic, but not stiff. I darkly laughed at all the faces that the mother, Christie, was pulling as her husband decided to stop at the park and especially her reaction to her son brandishing a stick as they wandered far from civilization with no phones or transportation. Niles writes her as the consummate voice of reason while her husband is definitely the new stepdad trying to overcompensate by showing his stepson a whimsical, or creepy good time. It’s a relatable situation thrown into an environment that starts out as fantastical, but could just be another rural desert area in Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico. 

Stephane Paitreau’s color palette truly matches gradual increase in the intensity of Steve Niles’ plot while also subverting some readers’ expectations. For example, it might seem like the carnival in Winnebago Graveyard could be like the infuriating (in difficulty) late-90s arcade game CarnEvil where all kinds of ghosts and ghouls chase you in an abandoned Midwest amused and be the epicenter of the horror in the book. No, Paitreau’s colors are neutral and faded like the glory days of the park. But when the family leaves the park in search of a phone or some form of civilization, his palette turns gloomy. Mountains and Joshua trees that would usually be in the background of nature selfies become just as freaky as a dark wood in a more on the nose horror story in Simpson and Paitreau’s hands.

PaitreWinnebago Graveyard #1 made me never want to leave an urban adjacent area and have my cellphone permanently glued to my hand. Steve Niles, Alison Sampson, and Stephane au are masters of gory and atmospheric horror storytelling, and your heart will feel like the creepy naked guy’s heart in the first few pages when you reach the final page cliffhanger.

Story: Steve Niles Art: Alison Sampson Colors: Stephane Paitreau
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Penny Dreadful: The Awakening #1

Penny DreadfulThe Awakening” picks up where the television series left off. We follow both Ethan and Mr. Lyle in a world without their beloved Vanessa. An ancient Egyptian legend dooming all of mankind arrives in London, that poor old Lyle has attempted to prevent numerous times, but nevertheless, the curse is unveiled.

Writer Chris King borrows details from the existing storyline from the show, as well as creates his own, developing a fascinating new plot line that puts all of our favorite characters lives at risk. We meet again, familiar faces such as Dr. Seward. Through King, Seward’s subtle and dry humor is brought to light, leaving the scenes a moment to take a breath from the drama. I personally wouldn’t mind a touch more of this, but overall I didn’t feel as though there was anything else to pick at in terms of storytelling.

Artist Jesús Hervás brings to Penny Dreadful everything I would hope for from a horror-based comic. It’s dark, menacing, delightfully detailed and unique. I don’t often feel the need to shout out the colorist, but even Jason Wordie seemed to create an entirely new palette with the color alone, and I imagine that’s not easy to do. The scenes in Egypt felt antiquated, like Wordie found the perfect shade of a million-year-old parchment, and saved it just for this. There are frames where it seems as though he has played with water colors, others where he has made use of markers, which is something I personally haven’t seen before―and it worked. It’s difficult to say who of the two gets credit for what, but at the end of the day, they seem to make a fine pair.

Fans will be grateful to live in this well-crafted world again thanks to these three artists and their unique hand in this piece. It’s set to be a four-part miniseries but I’m hoping that this won’t be the end of this trio.

Story: Chris King Art: Jesús Hervás Color: Jason Wordie
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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