Friday, 27 January 2012

‘Creepy Comics 1’ (Dark Horse Books)

As a boy, if there was a minor operation to be had (and time off school afterwards) then you could bet that I’d be taking up a hospital bed somewhere. It wasn’t that I was particularly ill or anything, it was just that various small parts of me would need removing from time to time. That’s just the way it goes I guess. It goes without saying that the resulting time off school was always the best part, especially when a Grandparent would show up with comics for me to read while everyone else was in lessons :o)
One time while I was off the ‘Get Well Soon’ comic pile threw up an issue of ‘Scream’, a relatively short lived UK comic that I will always remember for a story about a tower block run by an AI that would systematically kill off everyone that threatened his residents. I think that may have been the moment I fell in love with horror comics…

This was a love affair that died spectacularly during my teenage years and was barely remembered when I got back into reading comics at college. The ‘Zombie World’ comics took care of that though and, more recently, so did ‘The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics’ and ‘The Mammoth Book of Horror Comics’. I’m always after more horror in my comics though and the first collected volume of Dark Horse’s new ‘Creepy’ series (collecting issues #1 to #4) seemed like a great place to get my fix. Have you seen how much the older volumes of ‘Creepy’ are going for? Before I spend serious money on those (and it would be serious money) I thought I’d check out the latest stuff first. There was also the fact that I’m a sucker for Eric Powell’s artwork and this book is full of it. Having read the book, there’s definitely potential for future issues and I’ll probably be there to see how it all pans out. I’ll be hoping for stories that are more ‘hit’ than ‘miss’ though as that’s how I’d sum up Volume One…

If your comic book is called ‘Creepy’ then that’s making a serious statement of intent. Not only are you making promises on the quality of the content but you’re also hearkening back to the ‘Creepy’ of yesteryear, a series that was very well received back in the day. I guess the bottom line is that the revitalised ‘Creepy’ of today should have been called ‘Some of it is Creepy but there’s a lot of filler that isn’t’… I know that’s a long title for a comic book cover but sometimes you’ve got to be honest about these things.

‘Creepy Comics 1’ can be split into two halves. You’ve got the stories that are genuinely creepy, the stuff where the revelation sends a genuine shiver up your spine and you can’t get it out of your head. You also have the stories that forego these chills and set out to just plain shock you instead. Not creepy at all in other words.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal but a number of these stories don’t really shock at all. Neil Kleid’s ‘All the Help You Need’ has a great concept but the ending can be seen a mile off. It’s the same kind of issue with Mike Baron’s ‘Muscle Car’ but this tale takes a big step backwards when it decides to concentrate purely on the gore. Doug Moench’s ‘Pelted’ could have been something special but Angelo Torres’ art was far too plain and functionary to do it the justice it really deserves.

Braun and Haffner’s ‘Xchange’ though… That was the one story that set out to shock yet somehow ended up being quite creepy at the same time. I won’t spoil the ending, even though you can probably guess just how Hitler managed to escape Germany at the end of the war, I’ll only say that’s it very well handled and worth sticking around for.

It’s not just about the shocks though, thank goodness. ‘Creepy’ does show moments of real… well, creepiness and that’s what not only made the book one that I stuck with but ensured that I’ll check out future volumes.

I really want to see more along the same lines of Joe Harris’ ‘The Curse’ for a start; a genuinely unnerving tale of what ultimate power can do to the unprepared. It’s also a tale that introduces you to the darkness in everyone as well as making you question just what reality really is. ‘The Curse’ spans several issues of ‘Creepy’ but there are also one shots that do the job just as well. Take Joe R. Lansdale’s ‘Drawn Out’ for starters, a tale that really ratchets up the tension and has you wondering just how unlucky one man can be. Not that he didn’t deserve it… Andrew Foley’s ‘Fit for a King’ is another such tale, one that shows you what can happen when a cannibal chooses not to finish a meal… Michael Woods’ ‘Chemical 13’ marries horror all too well with the horror of the Nazi concentration camps and is more than ably drawn by Saskia Gutekunst. The collection signs off in just the right way with Andrew Mayer’s ‘Om Nom Nom’, a tale of the grotesquely cute that ends up being just plain grotesque in its creepiness. Lukas Ketner’s art really catches the tone of this piece perfectly.

There are more tales that are just as unnerving but I’ll let you find them for yourself. There is a lot of filler in this collection but when ‘Creepy’ hits the spot it does so in such a way that you won’t get those stories and images out of your head. I’d like ‘Creepy Comics 2’ to be more consistent in what it promises to deliver and I’ll be there to see if it makes good on that promise.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

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