Straight Shooter

Seems a little too early to get all Halloweeny up in this piece (“piece” meaning the comic book industry) but several recent quality — or at least interesting — horror-esque minis are launching. I’m not complaining, though, nor am I going to wax all psychological/political about it. I’ll just do a set of reviews and totally geek out. First up, and probably weakest, we’ve got Terror, Inc. #1, first in a five-part relaunch of a 1992 series in the Marvel Max imprint. The fact that the major-publisher title is the weakest horror comic should really be no surprise, but the problem isn’t what you’d expect. Thanks to the adult-oriented Max label, Lapham is allowed the freedom to get as gory and maybe even as foul-mouthed as he wants, but the result of all this freedom is like a 12-year-old discovering curse words, and the whole thing has an immaturity that’s a little off-putting at first. Though considering the grotesque subject matter — a reanimated warrior’s corpse who must attach dismembered parts to himself to keep from decaying — and the heavy political connotations — the corpse man’s a hired killer contracted to take out a mole in the Department of Homeland Security — the junior-high humor does offer a little bit of welcome B-movie detachment.

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Best, also no surprise, is the Fangoria comic. Though not the straight slasher-goth horror story you might expect given the imprint — this one stars the first Horseman of the Apocalypse — the Fourth Horseman, so far, is even better than expected. There’s plenty of gore here, sure, some really decent blood work by Castillo and Parvanov, but nothing worse or even as bad as you might expect. The real treat of this story is Nodelman’s writing. The story so far — the biblical Apocalypse, basically — is pretty interesting, though the format of introducing one Horseman per issue will get tiring if repeated verbatim. And the Fangoria imprint is basically the most horrific thing the comic has going for it. Were this published with a Max label, I don’t think I’d even connect what’s going on here with horror, but think of it instead as an attempt at bloody religious commentary. So if you go in expecting an H.P. Lovecraft type story, you’ll be disappointed. Nonetheless, this is a sure bet if you’re looking for a gore fix, or just a good mature-themed (as in “blood and curse words” mature, not “poorly drawn black and white vérité” mature) comic book.

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And finally a book that only slightly relates to the horror-comics theme, White Picket Fences. The story here is pure ’50s drive-in: aliens invade a small suburb and some average white kids are the only hope. Obviously this book is a lot more wholesome and blood-free than the other two reviewed here (there’s even a Precious Moments feel to Farritor’s artwork), but there’s a kind of weird sci-fi vibe that keeps this from being straight Leave It to Beaver. Nothing’s been explicitly stated so far, but it seems like Communists have been replaced by Martians in the Cold War. As often happens in the lower-budget titles, Hutchins and Anderson’s story suffers from an apparent miscommunication between the authors and the artists.

Even so, I’d say all three of these titles are worth purchasing if you have a bunch of money you don’t need and don’t want to send to a struggling freelance comic reviewer. None of these books is perfect, but there’s a noble reason to purchase each: incentive. Buy Terror, Inc to encourage Marvel to print more horror, The Fourth Horseman to support Fangoria’s publishing of more quality stuff, and White Picket Fences to encourage a small press to preserve.

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