Regular readers now that my Lovecraft is Missing blog is not a cutting-edge news site for all things horror. I don’t have the contacts or the interest in obtaining them, plus I think my being behind the curve is one of my strong points. It’s hard to keep up with everything new, plus there’s all that old classic stuff you might have missed, so sharing things oldies but goodies and odd ball recent but not current stuff that might be off your radar seems a better service.
Anyway, here are some newer items that I just recently stumbled onto:
Simon Dark, vol. 1, by Steve Niles and Scott Hampton
This TPB collects issues 1- 6 of Simon Dark from 2007-2008. I found it in a discount bin at a local comics show, which is a shame, because though far from perfect, it deserves better than that.
Writer Niles’ main claim to fame seems to be the 30 Days of Night series. I only read the first TPB and saw the movie and while it was a great idea (vampires converge on a town in the north where the sun disappears for thirty days each winter), the story development was really disappointing. Once the set-up was over and the vampires were in town, nothing much really happened in book or movie until the final confrontation. The humans basically holed up and tried to wait it out. I kept expecting, then hoping, for some sort of clever resistance, even if it ultimately failed.
Simon Dark has some of the same qualities: really interesting idea, not much happens, though it is far better developed than 30 Days. Simon is a mysterious being, possibly an experiment gone wrong, sought by multiple clandestine organizations, the two primary ones being an occult group and a science group. He wearsa creepy mask reminiscent of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Simon’s a little slow, but as he is stitched together from various body parts, it’s an understandable failing. The thinness of the other characters is less forgivable. They aren’t even cyphers, and it’s not because they are stock or cliched; Niles seems to take understatement and subtlety to an extreme that my feeble brain can’t appreciate or relate to.
The problem isn’t helped by Hampton’s art. Don’t get me wrong, it’s striking and moody and the guy has talent. It’s just that I often can’t tell the characters apart, and with the minimalist approach of the dialogue, I have to read several pages ahead to figure out who is doing what. The heroines, medical Examiner Beth Granger and newly arrived resident Rachel are, from the internal evidence, quite a few years apart in age. Rachel lives with her dad, and he says it’s not too late to put her up for adoption (totally loving banter rather than abusive put-down). But the two women as drawn look the same age and I can’t tell who’s who in most panels.
It looks like Hampton relies a bit too much on photographs, not as reference but as the foundation for the illustrations. That’s a pet peeve of mine, especially when an artist has such obvious ability.
Simon has also become a kind of local hero to a section of Gotham City overlooked by Batman. Setting the story in the DC universe seems an odd choice, as Batman seems to have no relevance to either the tone or story. At least insofar as this introductory volume, I found it an irritating distraction.
Still, there are some terrific touches –the spying eyeball, the parasite-infested specialty soap, the hanging limbs– great atmosphere, some horrific crimes and lots of intriguing mysteries, not the least of which is Simon’s origins. I’m looking forward to tracking down the remainder of the series.
Zombie World: Champion of the Worms by Mike Mignola and Pat McEwon
Like most of the known universe, I’m a big Mignola fan and will buy anything with his name on it. This book, from the late 1990s, is the first time I have ever been truly disappointed in something he’s had a hand in, and the fault lies pretty much entirely with his script.
Indulging his fondness for Clark Ashton Smith, Mignola spins a story outside the Hellboy universe about the resurrection of an evil Hyperborean wizard, Azzul Gotha. When his coffin is recovered and sent to an obscure Massachusetts museum, Major Damson and his quirky team of psychic investigators appear johnny-on-the-spot to take charge. They are too late. Gotha has already arisen, given life to the slew of mummies in the museum and is setting about turning the world over to his worm god for destruction. (That’s always seemed an odd ambition to me, even for mad, crazy, evil demented sorcerers.)
All this is largely a setup for Gotha’ as he expires again, to release a gas that brings the dead back to life, an event that doesn’t come untl late in the book. The zombies just get started on their march when the book ends. Obviously a set up for a series, but I can only find one follow-up to the story, and that without Mignola’s direct involvement. I take it the series didn’t click.
I like Pat McEown’s art a lot, probably because we share a lot of the same inspirations, like Roy Crane, but I am not sure it works to it’s best advantage in this story.
Lobo: Highway to Hell, pt. 1 of 2, by Scott Ian and Sam Keith
Lobo came into comics long after I had given up on them, so that I recognize the character but know nothing about him. I thought I’d give this new book a try when I saw that he is evidently a demon banished form hell. That was news.
Wow. Talk about nothing happening. In 64 pages, all Lobo does is amble and maim his way to his destination. Scott Ian is in a heavy metal rock band and this is his first comic book. I’ll offer this thought: funny dialogue does not a story make.
Sam Ian proves he can draw well in a billion different styles, all on the same page. Any point to this is lost on me, but it alone gives the book any movement. Really didn’t work for me on any level, and have no interest in the second issue.