Posted by: John Gholson
There’s a cover blurb on Victorian Undead, the new horror/adventure comic from DC/Wildstorm that proclaims in bright green letters, “SHERLOCK HOLMES VS ZOMBIES!” I feared that the story inside would read as a cash grab opportunity to sell issues based solely on the upcoming Guy Ritchie film. Turns out Victorian Undead’s greatest credit is that it doesn’t smack of opportunism at all — it’s simply a story that writer Ian Edginton felt compelled to tell, a quasi-What If? in the tradition of Alan Moore’s playful historical fiction comics.
I can’t judge how faithful Edginton stays to the tropes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, having read only The Hound of the Baskervilles at a very young age, but it certainly feels like classic Holmes and Watson. There are some elements of the fantastic added to the familiar mix, like androids and, of course, zombies, but nothing that betrayed my perception of the way these characters should behave. Issue 1 (I’m assuming this is a mini-series, but there’s nothing in the comic to indicate how many issues are planned) is essentially a very simple set-up, wherein a comet passes over 1854 London and brings the recently dead back to life. Sherlock Holmes is called in by Scotland Yard to investigate.
Do I want to know what happens next? Yes. The book is light horror, due in part to the pencils of Davide Fabbri (who seems heavily influenced by DC stalwart Dan Jurgens), and Edginton provides just enough of a hook to make you curious about where the story is going next. Nobody is trying to re-invent the wheel here, and I think it makes Victorian Undead one of the breeziest horror comics in recent memory. Fabbri doesn’t draw anything inside the pages as gruesome as Tony Harris’s hilariously revolting cover art, and, in a different artist’s hands the book would’ve probably felt more adult.
Posted by: John Gholson
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Mike Huddleston, Grant Bond, Christopher Gugliotti, Fiona Staples
If you really want to experience the differences in storytelling between comics and film, comic book movie adaptations are always a great place to start. The panels serve as a series of “greatest hits” moments from the film, the writers and artists thanklessly reducing thrilling cinematic action sequences into a static panel or two, and swapping emotional character beats for only the choicest one-liners. It’s got to be a tough job. DC/Wildstorm does their best effort with TRICK ‘R TREAT, the comic adaptation of Michael Dougherty’s straight-to-video anthology love letter to Halloween. Sporadic screenings and good word of mouth have helped TRICK ‘R TREAT gain a cult audience in advance of its official release, and I think those that are already huge fans of the film will be interested in seeing how the story unfolds in a comic book format.
There are four different artists at work here, working under Marc Andreyko’s writing, which is faithful to Dougherty’s script, but uninspired. Mike Huddleston (Gen 13, Friday the 13th: Badland) tackles the first quarter of the book, which includes two major scenes from the film–the opening vignette wherein a young couple return home from a long night of partying, and the film’s most conceptually disturbing story, which introduces sinister school principal Mr. Wilkins. Huddleston has a straight-forward, pleasing comic art style that’s a touch on the cartoony side, but he compliments it here with heavy blacks and dramatic silhouettes. Grant Bond (Archibald Saves Christmas, Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors) takes on the story of a Halloween trick gone horribly wrong. A group of kids decide to scare an idiot savant with the local legend of a school bus full of mentally disturbed children that fell to their watery grave in a rock quarry one Halloween night. It was my favorite segment of the film, and Bond’s pastel-colored visuals give the tale a storybook quality that feels appropriate.
Posted by: John Gholson
Written by Aaron Williams, 2009
Art by Fiona Staples
Maybe I’m “old school”, but when I buy an issue of a comic book, I want a story with a beginning, middle, and an end (even if the ending is a cliffhanger). I understand that this isn’t the nature of the industry anymore; everything is driven by trade paperback sales. Modern comics seem paced exclusively for six-issue collections, and if you happen to catch an individual issue in the middle of a six-issue arc, you’ll often get no explanation for what happened before and absolutely no resolution for anything within the issue itself. It’s a big part of the reason that I don’t pick up as many comics as I used to.
DC/Wildstorm’s new horror title NORTH 40 is as modern a comic as I’ve ever seen–an interesting first issue kick-off, followed by two issues of glacial pacing and underdeveloped characters and situations.I’m sure that the undercooked aspects of NORTH 40 are intended to create a feeling of mystery and intrigue that keeps you reading on a monthly basis, but, after three issues, writer Aaron Williams doesn’t dispense enough good information to sustain interest, issue to issue. It’s got to be a tough balancing act. It’s obvious Williams is playing his cards close to his vest, but because of that, I pretty much have no idea what’s going on in a given issue. Assuming Williams has some clarity on the way past issue number three, this type of storytelling would work fine in the trade paperback format. He may be building up to something in the next three issues. In a monthly format however, it’s lousy.
NORTH 40 is the story of the residents of Lufton, a podunk pitstop along Interstate 40 North, in some unnamed desert state where two of the town’s more “different” kids (a fat guy in a Cthulhu shirt and a snarky goth chick) unleash some not-exactly-explained evil on the town by reading from what appears to be the Necronomicon. As a result, the town ends up cut-off from the rest of the world, and a good portion of its population transform into paranormally powered monsters. A couple of the central protagonists are completely unchanged, namely B-movie stock character Sherriff Morgan and the blandly good-natured teen Wyatt Hinkle, but their goal after three issues doesn’t seem to run much deeper than a middling desire to figure out what’s going on. Most of that investigative action takes a backseat to perfunctory character introductions and their displays of odd powers.