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Longbox Junk Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe

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June 2019

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Now that I think of it, I PROBABLY should have done this entry for Halloween.

BUT. . .

What we have here is a 3 issue black and white series adapting 10 of Edgar Allan Poe's shorter works, featuring the art of the legendary Richard Corben.  Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Corben. . .how can this NOT be good?  Let's find out!

HAUNT OF HORROR: EDGAR ALLAN POE (Marvel/MAX)

Art and Covers: Richard Corben

Scripts: Richard Corben, Rich Margopoulos, and Rick Dahl

ISSUE ONE

Fair warning. . .if you're prone to depression, do NOT read this comic (or the other 2 issues in this mini)! Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but this comic is unrelentingly grim. That said, I liked it a lot.

Basically, it breaks down to adaptations of three of E.A. Poe's shorter works. The Raven being the best known. Conqueror Worm fairly well known, and The Sleeper probably known mostly to people who dig deep into Poe's catalog. All of them illustrated by comic legend Richard Corben, whose work is a bit polarizing. With Corben it's either love him or hate him. . .not much in between, so your enjoyment of this mini will depend entirely on your opinion of Corben's art, as it is almost completely his show. Let's take a look at the 3 adaptations separately. . .

THE RAVEN
Art and Script by Richard Corben

Probably the best known of Poe's works, and brilliantly adapted by Corben on both art and scripts. Stepping outside the bounds of the original poem (which is also included in its entirety. . .a very nice touch), The Raven becomes a grim and claustrophobic journey into the mind of a man living with the guilt of murdering his one true love. I really liked this reimagining of an already dark work, making it even darker with its brutal ending.

THE SLEEPER
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rich Margopoulos

This is one of Poe's less well known works. . .a short poem that is used word for word in this adaptation (unlike The Raven, where Corben used only short phrases) where it is imagined as a modern vampire tale where a priest is unwittingly dragged into a dark and bloody battle to save the soul of his murdered niece. The ending to this one is particularly horrific, as the priest becomes the thing he has been hunting. These aren't sparkly, romantic vampires. . .these are bloodthirsty creatures illustrated in gruesome detail by Corben. A very nice story told in a very short space. . .and once again, the original poem included at the end.

THE CONQUEROR WORM
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rick Dahl

The final adaptation in this first issue is one of Poe's better known works, but is also the one taken furthest from the source material. Corben and Dahl imagine Conqueror Worm in the far apocalyptic future decades after humans narrowly won a victory against invading aliens that devastated Earth's environment with terraforming during the long and brutal war. In the time of the story, the few human survivors are barely surviving in isolated fortresses. A delegation to the remains of Philadelphia discovers to their horror the secret of that city's prosperity.

This was my favorite story of the three. It reminded me a LOT of something that would be in Heavy Metal magazine, with the truly horrific reveal of Philadelphia's secret and the brutal ending. Like I said above, this is the farthest departure from Poe's original work (once again, included in full for comparison at the end), but I thought the apocalyptic science fiction take on Conqueror Worm was brilliantly done in every way.

CONCLUSION

As I said at the beginning of this review. . .the reader's enjoyment of this mini will entirely depend on their opinion of Corben's artwork. I'm on the "love it" side of the fence, so I found this issue to be fantastic in almost every way. I particularly enjoyed the dark science fiction adaptation of Conqueror Worm, but all three of these stories were winners in my book. But like I also said at the beginning, be warned. . .these tales are dark and unrelentingly brutal. There are NO bright moments to be found here. There is NO victory for any of the protagonists. There is NO hope. This is an extremely dark and depressing collection.

ISSUE TWO

This issue adds an entry over the first for a total of 4, of which the best known one for most readers will probably be The Tell-Tale Heart. Like the first issue, each of the works these interpretations are based on are also included in their entirety at the end of each one for comparison. A very nice touch!

Let's get into each one of these entries separately. . .

THE TELL-TALE HEART
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rich Margopolous

The longest of the original works in this issue is given only 6 pages, and unlike the other entries, is paraphrased instead of word for word. It is presented in fantastic style by Corben, with each of the 6 pages being a single page panel without interior borders so the captions and illustrations flow together in a way that is extremely easy to follow and truly showcases why Corben is a comic legend. It's pretty much a straight adaptation of the story, but the ending goes beyond the original story with the protagonist realizing after he confesses his crime that the beating heart was his own, and he dies of a heart attack from the stress. I'm sort of on the fence about the departure from the original ending. It's not BAD, but Poe's ending was perfect already.

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Richard Dahl

This very short Poem is interpreted by Corben and Dahl as a revenge story where black soldiers slaughtered in an ambush during the Civil War rise from the dead decades later to save a black man from being lynched by the KKK. The captions are the poem word for word and they fit the idea and illustrations very well. . .at the same time, this story could have been told without captions at all, Corben is THAT good at visual storytelling.

EULALIE
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Richard Dahl

Although the script is another word for word captioning of a very short poem, the visual adaptation is probably the most disturbing of the 4 entries in this issue. Corben and Dahl re-imagine Poe's ode to the beauty of a woman as a short tale about a lonely old man who orders a blow up doll and has a heart attack while having sex with it. The image of the dead man laying next to the staring, open-mouthed doll is truly horrific. Once again, this story could have easily been told without captions, thanks to Corben's fantastic visual storytelling. The beauty of Poe's words alongside the utter visual horror of dying alone makes this entry one of the darkest in this whole series.

And finally. . .

THE LAKE
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rich Margopolous

Another word for word adaptation of a very short poem, this entry is imagined as the story of a serial killer whose victims finally rise from the dead to take their revenge. This was probably my least favorite of the 4 entries in this issue. Corben's art just didn't seem on point in this one. . .especially with the killer, who is sporting a 90's-tastic blown out blonde mullet. That said, a single panel showing his previous victims weighted down and rotting at the bottom of a lake is one of the best in this whole series.

CONCLUSION

Despite a BIT of a stumble with the final entry, this was another fantastic issue. Like the first, it is unrelentingly brutal and dark. There are several places where the illustrations lingered in my thoughts for quite a while. . .and not in a particularly good way. This series so far has been top-notch horror.

ISSUE THREE

The final issue adapts 3 of Poe's lesser-known works. . .a very short story (Berenice) and 2 poems. Israfel is probably the best known of these to the casual Poe reader. Let's take a look at each one on their own. . .

ISRAFEL
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rich Margopoulos

While the original poem is about the beauty of music sung by angels in heaven, Corben's visual interpretation is about the dark and ugly side of the music business, with rival rappers and their posses getting into a brutal gunfight when they end up at the same fancy restaurant. While the story is well told visually, the distance from the original material wasn't a very good fit, making the words and pictures two separate things entirely. Maybe that was the point. With some of these adaptations, it's a bit hard to tell.

THE HAPPIEST DAY
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rick Dahl

This early work by Poe was originally a meditation on how happiness never lasts long. . .Corben visually interprets the poem as a man attending his 10th high school reunion and encountering the same bullies who brutally mistreated him in school. It ends with him pulling a gun and taking his revenge before he is shot down himself and dies with a smile on his face. Reading this story now, in the age of regular mass shootings, makes the horror of a man who can only find happiness in death and violence even darker in its timely nature. It really made me think and wonder about WHY some of these shootings happen.

And finally, we come to the end of this series with. . .

BERENICE
Art by Richard Corben
Script by Rich Margopoulos

Like The Tell-Tale Heart in the previous issue, Berenice is paraphrased and adapted beyond the word for word captioning of the other entries in this issue. In Corben's interpretation, a dentist who regularly molests his cousin while she's under anesthesia accidentally kills her with an overdose and is slowly driven mad by visions of her teeth until he confesses his murder.

In many ways, this interpretation by Corben resembles The Tell-Tale Heart in tone and subject. Unlike that interpretation, which was pretty faithful to the original, Berenice strays a good distance from the original work. Unfortunately, it's not as good as some of Corben's other re-imaginings of Poe's work in this series. The art is definitely the strong point, with Bernice's haunting grimace. . .especially when she lays dead and staring on his table. . .being truly nightmarish. 

CONCLUSION

Overall, I found this final issue to be the weakest of the three. Don't get me wrong. . .it's not BAD at all. Just not as good as the other two issues. There are some really great moments here. . .the way Corben reflects and contrasts past and present in The Happiest Hour, Berenice's horrifying smile, and so on. It's just a shame that this issue is overall not nearly as good as the previous two.

CONCLUSION

If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Corben, Horror Comics, or any combination of those three things, do yourself a favor and find this mini-series.  I'm not going to say it's ALL great, but there's a lot more to like than dislike in these three issues.

While some of Corben's interpretations of the source material are a bit off the mark, there's no denying that when he nails it, he nails it HARD.  This is brutal, dark, and unrelentingly depressing horror and a fine little piece of Longbox Junk well worthy of your attention.

Up Next. . .

ONE SHOTS, BABY! 

Aliens! Assasin! Suicide Squad! Batman! Predator! Conan!

One shots are like the Pu-Pu Platter of comic books. . .sweet little chunks of goodness.

Be there or be square!

  • 361 days ago by brucifer's avatar brucifer
  • I've been a HUGE fan of Richard Corben for eons. As much as I would like him to draw a monthly comic book, I believe mini-series is the way to go for his unique artwork. He got his start at Heavy Metal magazine after all, so it's no surprise (to me anyway) that he prefers Non-superhero stories to interpret.
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