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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .did that make sense? You know what, I don't care!  Welcome!

We're in the last week of October and it's the Halloween Home Stretch for Longbox Junk before we get back to our random business as usual.  So sit back and enjoy a few more posts where we spotlight some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

I was sort of on the fence about labeling this one as a Longbox Junk "Retro Review".  It sits solidly at the end of the Bronze Age in 1980. . .and at 40 years old, it's not exactly a new comic.  But on the other hand, the art and the stories inside definitely have a more Modern Age feel to them. . .despite paying lip service to the CCA by sporting the (then increasingly toothless)  seal of approval on the cover. 

In any case, no matter where this comic may fall in terms of  defining "Age", at a top value of twelve lousy bucks for a mint copy (according to Comic Book Realm) it's definitely what I would call Longbox Junk. . .so let's take a look!

THE UNEXPECTED 

#202

DC (1980)

 
COVER: Luis Dominguez
 
So before we get into the comic itself, let's linger a moment over the cover. 
 
In my extremely humble opinion, that's a fine Halloween cover right there!  I mean, just LOOK at it.  It's so wrong. . .yet so right!  This is the sort of cover that makes me buy an old comic without seeing or knowing anything else about it.  And that's exactly how I ended up with this.  How could I possibly pass up a comic with a cover like this?  I can't! I  just can't!  
 
This is just a great horror comic cover.  It's one of my favorites and it makes regular appearances as part of my Halloween comic cover display on my office wall at work.  
 
Let's get into the comic itself.  There's four stories in here for the fifty cents this cost in 1980. Plus each story has an introduction page starring The House of Secrets' Abel or The Witching Hour's trio of witches.   That's a pretty hefty pile of pages for two measly quarters.  
 
DEATH TRAP
SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Torre Repiso
 
After an inmate escapes from the local insane asylum, a police captain's wife receives a visitor claiming to be an investigator on the case.  She becomes suspicious and tries to escape the house, narrowly avoiding death when her husband arrives just in time to shoot the disguised inmate.  
 
 
There's not really much to this story.  It's basically a "stalker chase scene" horror trope with the twist that the Captain's wife became suspicious in the first place because the inmate was female and she could tell the disguised "investigator" was female by the way she held her arms.  
 
Even though it's light on actual story, it's well written and the art is very nicely done.  Not a bad story, but not great. It feels like page-filler more than anything.  I'm not sure this should have been the lead-off here.
 
NEXT!
 
HOPPING DOWN THE BUNNY TRAIL
SCRIPT: Michael Uslan
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
 
Three kids join the festivities after signs advertising an Easter Egg hunt at an old mansion pop up around town overnight.  At the party, the three are invited inside the mansion for a "special" hunt with a big prize.  Instead of prizes, they fall into a trapdoor that drops them into a vat of chocolate.  
 
One of them is pulled out by a giant Easter Bunny, who immediately bites the head off of the chocolate-covered kid. . .leaving the other two still trapped in the vat of chocolate watching as the first is devoured, horrified and knowing that they will die the same way. . .
 
Wow. . .just. . .wow.  Even toward the end of the CCA's influence, I find it hard to believe that this story made it past.  It's not ambiguous at all. . .the Easter Bunny gets his revenge by biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid.  It's a classic "Turn-about is fair play" horror comic trope.
 
It's a very short little tale, but it's just SO random that it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  Why does the Easter Bunny choose THIS Easter for his revenge? Wait. . .is that the Easter Bunny at all?  Why does the Easter Bunny Monster live in a trap-filled mansion?  What does the Easter Bunny eat the rest of the year?  So on and so forth. . .so many questions! 
 
This strange little nugget of horror was written by one of my top 5 old-school comic writers, Michael Uslan.  I stand here and give him a round of applause for giving the world this unexplained and probably unexplainable piece of hidden Longbox Junk gold.  
 
Bravo, Mr. Uslan! *vigorous clapping*
 
Next!
 
THE MIDNIGHT MESSENGER
SCRIPT: Peter John Palmer
PENCILS: Ken Landgraf & Joe Orlando
 
A pet shop owner being harassed by an extortionist performs an occult ceremony as a last resort, trading his soul to the "Agent" he summons to rid himself of the hoodlum and restore his ruined store.
 
Over the coming years, he regrets his deal and tries his best to be a good and righteous man, hoping he will be able to bargain his way free at the end.  Later, as he lays dying, the "Agent" comes to collect on the bargain.  The man tries to plead his case, only for the "Agent" to reveal that he had summoned supernatural help from Heaven, not . .and that his good behavior has indeed saved him. 
 
 
The twist that the shop owner had summoned an angel instead of a demon was pretty good here and actually caught me by surprise.  Another thing that caught me by surprise is that even though the late Joe Orlando is credited on art, this story actually has the worst art in the comic.  It's not BAD, it's just. . .very average and workmanlike.  Maybe I was just expecting better after seeing Orlando's name on the credits. 
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE CREATURE OF THE PARK
SCRIPT: Ms. Charlie Seeger
PENCILS: Arthur Geroche
 
At Milestone National Park, a Ranger and his Deputy investigate a camper's death they believe was caused by a renegade bear.  When a close examination of a second victim is made, it appears that she was killed by rabbits!  
 
Now convinced the Ranger himself is killing the campers and making it look like animals are responsible, the Deputy tries to protect himself, but when the Ranger is also killed, the Deputy finds himself facing a small horde of animals. . .including rabbits, deer, and birds. . .that kill him as well.
 
At the end of things, it's revealed that the Park itself turned against humans for revenge against littering, forest fires, and bad treatment of nature.
 
 
Allrighty, then.  It's a horror story with an environmental message!  Unfortunately, that message falls flat.  Really flat.  It's actually a pretty decent story with some great, darkly-inked artwork. . .until the "twist" that the Park itself was rebelling against human abuse of nature.  It's just sort of cringeworthy.
 
What I DID like about this story (besides the very nice artwork) is that it's the second story in this comic with killer rabbits (even if these are off-panel instead of biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid).  Even though it has a September publishing date, I'd have to say that the two killer bunny stories make this issue a great unsung Easter Horror comic!  I don't think there's many of those out there, so there's that.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I'd have to say that this was a pretty good comic.  At the time it was published, the comic horror anthologies were well on their way out the door.  This issue still has a nice little spark of life to it that I liked a lot.  Generally-speaking, the stories were all pretty good and nicely-illustrated.
 
The Michael Uslan killer Easter Bunny story is the definite star here, just for its complete randomness and for seeming like something that was sort of sneaked in under the radar.  The final story has the best art, but the worst story.  The other two are just sort of "pretty good", but everything in this comic displays little glints of gold here and there in single panels of art or lines of dialogue.
 
This is a comic that I absolutely love for the cover.  That said, what's inside isn't bad at all.  If you spot this one for a decent price (as in five bucks or less) then definitely pick it up and enjoy a strange little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Halloween ain't over until the 31st! 
So there's still a little more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to come.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!
 
There's still a couple weeks left in October, so we're still having some Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by looking at some of the spooky things hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.
 
This time out, we have a Dark Horse one shot adaptation of a couple of Edgar Allan Poe's shorter works written and illustrated by comic legend Richard Corben.
 
If Halloween were to have a central figure. . .a mascot, if you will, like Christmas has Santa Claus or Easter has the Easter Bunny, or. . .er. . .okay, that's all I can think of.  ANYWAY. . .if Halloween were to have its own mascot, in MY extremely humble opinion it should be the grumpy ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
 
For the sake of TRYING to keep my introductions to a manageable length I won't go too far into the history of Poe. . .he basically lived a short, tragic life and died a mysterious death, leaving behind a body of some of the darkest literature ever written that is now regarded as the work of a mad genius, but was mostly ignored during his lifetime. 

Poe's life story is one of heartbreak, death, poverty, and unappreciated genius.  If you really feel like loving the life you have, then read Poe's life story and then thank you aren't him.  
 
SO. . .
 
We have an undisputed comic book legend adapting two short tales by one of the undisputed masters of dark and creepy literature.  How can this NOT be good?  Let's take a look!
 
 

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S

THE PREMATURE BURIAL

DARK HORSE (2014)

 
SCRIPTS: RICHARD CORBEN
PENCILS: RICHARD CORBEN
COVER: RICHARD CORBEN
 
There's two stories in this one-shot and, as you can tell from the credits above, this is pretty much a one man show with Richard Corben wearing all the hats.  Before we get into the comic, let's take a brief look at the cover. . .
 
Now THAT'S a Halloween cover!  I love Corben's use of negative space to frame the ghoulish scenario in the center.  The dreary colors highlight the living flesh of the man in the coffin as well as the title.  The supreme attention to detail in things like the terror in the eyes of the living man lets you know before you even open this comic that there's a master at work here. 
 
Wait. . .did I mention I'm a big Richard Corben fan?  No?  Well there it is, then.  This isn't Corben's best cover ever, but it's still a great cover.  Let's get inside.
 

THE PREMATURE BURIAL

 
We begin the tale in a graveyard where Lucian and his fiancee, Victoria are having a picnic.  Victoria rebuffs Lucian's advances and leaves him without realizing that Lucian has given her poisoned wine.
 
Appearing dead, Victoria is buried in the same graveyard.  Lucian digs up her grave the night of her burial, but Victoria wakes up as he is groping her body.  In a panic, Victoria flees and Lucian hits his head on a gravestone as he tries to pursue her. . .
 
A funeral is held for Lucian as the blow to his head has made him appear dead as well, but Victoria realizes he's not actually dead and hires the gravediggers to dig the terrified man who has been buried alive back up.
As Lucian recovers from his ordeal, he is informed by his outraged father that Victoria has told him exactly what happened and that, for some reason, she still wants to marry Lucian.  The two are married, but Lucian can't find happiness because he's become obsessed with his short time of being buried alive. . .
 
As Lucian sinks deeper into his obsession with being buried alive again, he takes many precautions to avoid that horrible fate. . .an above-ground tomb with a bell he can ring, a coffin that comes easily apart, a supply of food, and so on. 
 
Even so, he finds himself unable to sleep, terrified that he will wake up in a coffin again.  Victoria gives him tea so that he can sleep, but he finds himself having a horrible nightmare of being buried alive. . .
 
In Lucian's nightmare, he wanders a hellish landscape of the tormented dead who have been buried alive.  Their screams are relentless.  He spots Victoria and runs to her, hoping she can help him escape the nightmare. . .
 
But instead of helping him, Victoria grins wickedly and ignores his cries! 
Lucian's worst nightmare comes true as he wakes from his dream confined in a coffin!  But he is quickly relieved to hear another voice as he realizes he's not in a coffin, but in a small berth aboard a ship he is travelling on for a hunting trip. 
 
Relief turns to horror as Lucian realizes the truth. . .the ship is a fantasy and he is indeed buried alive after being drugged by his wife.
 
The End.
 
For those who haven't read Poe's original "The Premature Burial", it's less of a story and more like what one would hear at a lecture, the sort of which were popular entertainment in his day.  An introduction to the subject, several short examples, and then the speaker's personal experience.  It's a very matter-of-fact piece, compared to Poe's other tales, and there's actually not much narrative to it at all.
 
What Corben has done here is to meld the various elements of the original piece together and add to them in order to create an actual story out of what is more of a dry lecture on Premature Burial.  So this becomes less of an adaptation and more of a re-imagining.  
 
For someone who's read Poe's work many times such as myself, this is a fantastic interpretation of what is really one of Poe's less memorable works.  The moving and combining of the separate elements of the original by Corben in order to make an actual story out of them is brilliant.
 
Corben's reliably outstanding artwork is in top form here.  The wicked grin of Victoria as Lucian realizes she's purposely buried him alive is probably the creepiest thing in the entire story.  Corben's use of the comic panel itself as Lucian's coffin on top of the final page is another standout moment, as is the small image of the terrified Lucian enduring his awful fate at the bottom of the final page.
 
What we have here is a fantastic re-imagining of one of Poe's less memorable works, backed up with some top-notch art by one of the most legendary comic illustrators in the business.  I can find nothing wrong with this chilling little tale.  
 

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO

 
We begin our tale with the Lord Montresor leading the widowed Madam Fortunato into his family crypt, promising to shed some light on the mysterious disappearance of her husband nearly 50 years ago. . .
 
Montresor tells her that many years ago, he found her drunken husband celebrating at a carnival and invited him to his home. . .to the very crypt they are in. . .to sample some Amontillado wine, for her husband was a great lover of rare wines. . .
As they traveled deeper and deeper into the depths of the crypt beneath the Montresor Pallazo, her husband was offered several times to turn back, but Fortunato greatly desired to sample the Amontillado, and so the pair pressed on, deeper into the crypt. . .
Finally, Montresor led Fortunato to a small alcove, promising the Amontillado was within.  But there was nothing in the alcove but a chain, which Montresor quickly used to bind Fortunato within the dark alcove. . .
Once Fortunato was securely confined, Montresor began to brick the alcove up.  Fortunato thought Montresor was playing a cruel joke right up until the time that Montresor placed the final stone. . .burying Fortunato alive within the walls of the very crypt they now stood within, and where Madam Fortunato's missing husband has been for the nearly 50 years since!
Madam Fortunato is understandably horrified by Montresor's confession.  She demands to know what her husband did that so wronged Montresor that he did such a thing.  Montresor thinks a moment, but is unable to remember!  
 
Montresor explains to the horrified Madam Fortunato that he merely wanted someone to know the truth after all the years had passed, and that he has come to the crypt to die. . .a glass of poisoned wine and Montresor falls dead beside the tomb of Fortunato.
 
The End.
 
"The Cask of Amontillado" is one of Poe's better known works, and one of my personal favorites.  It's basically a very short, very simple tale of one man luring another into a crypt and walling him up alive.  
 
What Corben does here is add a framing device to add more depth to the original tale.  In the original story, beyond vague insinuations of insult, it's never explained WHY Montresor walled Fortunato up.  Here, the lack of explanation becomes truly horrible as Montresor confesses to Fortunato's widow that he can't even remember why he killed her husband in such a cruel way.  
 
It's a brilliant touch by Corben that makes a great story even better!  The confession of Montresor becomes even more horrifying than the deed itself, due to the absurdity of his not even remembering why he did it.
 
The art in this story is simply fantastic!  This is a tale that has very little action or supernatural elements to it, so facial expressions need to do a lot of the heavy lifting.  Corben delivers in a big way here.  Fortunato's manic grin as he walls up Fortunato, as well as the insanity in that same grin as he makes his confession are real standout moments in a story full of great art.
 
What we have here is a brilliant expansion on an already great story, backed up by some extremely detailed and creepy art focusing on facial expressions.  For me, THIS is the definitive adaptation of Poe's classic tale.
 

CONCLUSION

 
If you're looking for a good horror comic, look no further.  You won't find gore or monsters here, but what you WILL find are two creepy little stories of madness and revenge that use the primal fear of being buried alive as their foundation.
 
In the first, we have a brilliant re-structuring and re-imagination of what is otherwise one of Poe's less memorable works, turning it from a dry lecture and into an actual story.
 
In the second, we have more of a straight re-telling of a classic story, but with an outstanding framing device that makes an already great story even better.
 
In both we have incredible artwork by one of the undisputed legends of comic art.
 
If you are a fan of horror comics, Richard Corben, Edgar Allan Poe, or any combination of those things, then do yourself a favor and grab this comic if you happen to spot it in the bargain bin.  It's pure Longbox Junk Halloween gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Halloween fun!  That's right. . .MORE!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk, spotlighting some of the spooky stuff haunting my (and my daughter's) comic collection.  This time out, we're going into the lighter side of horror with Count Duckula!

FAIR WARNING:  I'm going to digress a bit here before getting into the comic at hand.

As far as I'm concerned one of the best parts of comic collecting is the ability of a simple floppy stack of stapled paper to transport me back to various periods of time. . .I like to call it "The Paper Time Machine".  This Count Duckula comic book took me back in a big way.

I don't have a personal connection to this particular issue.  It came from my daughter's collection.  But as I was looking through it, I was brought straight back to the very beginning of my days as a bargain bin hunter.  See, before my daughter was old enough to start enjoying comics, I mostly collected what was new on the rack or what I had on subscription.  I pretty much ignored the back issue boxes.

But when my daughter got to be about 4 or 5 years old, that changed when I decided to find some cheap comics for her that I wouldn't mind if she banged them up a bit.  My thinking was to get her interested first and teach her how to take care of them later.  So I began my long career as a "Longbox Junker" digging through bargain bins for Richie Rich, Archie, Casper, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and any other bright comic aimed at kids I could find for a quarter. . .and here we are now.

My daughter is 25 now and she's the Marvel fan of the two of us (I'm more of a DC guy).  Getting deep into the convoluted continuity of Marvel's connected superhero soap opera is definitely her thing. . .but it all started with comics like this one.  Just looking at this comic brings me back to the days of us sitting together on the floor of her bedroom. . .me with my new comics and her with a handful of  cheap Richie Rich comics after dinner on Wednesday nights.

It's amazing to me remembering how something so inexpensive and simple as a Casper The Friendly Ghost comic from the quarter bin could bring my young daughter such happiness.  What's even more amazing to me now that she's older is discovering (while digging through her collection looking for good Longbox Junk) that she still has so many of those comics I bought as throwaways!

They're worthless for all intents and purposes.  Heavily read. . .some of them with covers detached, some with Kool-Aid stains, corners bent, just all sorts of damage.  But she has them just as carefully bagged and boarded as the most valuable comics in her collection!  When I pulled this Count Duckula comic from the box to do this review, she told me to be careful with it, even though it's probably not even "worth" a dollar.

And so even though the pages are barely hanging onto the staples, I treated this comic like a Silver Age collector item. . .because to my daughter, it's valuable.  Her telling me to be careful with this "worthless" comic reminded me in a BIG way that sometimes the value of a comic has nothing to do with how much money it's worth.

Well. . .enough of that.

The comic at hand is one that I bought at some unknown point in the past for my daughter.  I assumed on first look (based on the cover)  that it was from the Warner Bros. stable of characters because the main character looks sort of like Daffy Duck or someone related to him.  But as I said above, in those early days of Longbox Junkin' I just pulled anything that looked good for kids from the quarter box.  I never actually READ any of them beyond a quick flip in the store and maybe a little reading together with my daughter if she needed help with a word or wanted to show me something funny.

BUT. . .

A quick bit of research shows me that Count Duckula is actually a character based on a British cartoon series I've never heard of called "Danger Mouse", and has nothing to do with Disney or WB.  So this comic and the main character is as new for me now as it was for my daughter all those years ago.  Let's do it!

COUNT DUCKULA #1

MARVEL (1988)

COVER: Warren Kremer
 
As usual, let's take a look at the cover first. . .
 
It's great!  I like it a lot.  On first glance, it looks like Duckula is one of the Warner Bros. gang.  Between that and the short gag you get before you even open this up, you can tell this comic is going to be on the "wacky" end of the comedy dial, so it does a perfect job of selling what's inside the comic right off the bat.  The colors are also great, with lots of eye-catching and contrasting reds, blues and yellows mixed in with splashes of green on the main character. 
 
Overall, this is a really fun and colorful cover that catches the eye and perfectly sells what's inside.
 
Moving along. There's two stories in this issue, both by the same team.  Let's take a look. . .
 
A MINOR FOWL-UP
SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Our story starts with the origin of Count Duckula.  A ceremony to resurrect Count Duckula is "fowled" up when the housekeeper of Castle Duckula substitutes catsup for blood during the ritual, accidentally creating the first vegetarian vampire!
 
 
As the new Count Duckula discovers his musical talents, the sworn enemy of the Duckulas, Vampire Hunter Doctor Von Goosewing hears the sounds from the supposedly empty castle and investigates.  Hijinks ensue as he falls victim to his own clumsiness and the pitfalls of the castle.
 
 
In the meantime, Count Duckula's butler tells him about Castle Duckula's ability to magically teleport anywhere in the world, and that it will always return to Transylvania before sunrise.  Count Duckula accidentally transports the castle to Outer Mongolia, where he, the butler, and the housekeeper are quickly captured by Attila The Hen and her Hen-Chmen. . .who decide to cook and eat the three of them.
  
 
It's Count Duckula's arch-enemy, Doctor Von Goosewing, who saves the day because HE wants credit for destroying Count Duckula.  He frees the trio of prisoners and they all return to Transylvania.
 
The End.
 
On looking at my synopsis, I realize its sort of hard to describe a zany story where puns, one liners, and physical comedy fill every single panel!  There's not a single bit of wasted space in this story.  The writer and artist cram as many gags as they can into every bit of this, and I love it!  It definitely has more of a Warner Bros. fast-paced "wacky" style than Disney, and that's more my speed of cartoons. . .where the jokes come fast and furious and never stop.  
 
Sure, this is written for kids.  But like the best of the old cartoons, adults can find fun in this as well.  Not all of the gags hit the target, but enough of them do to make this first story a good read.
 
NEXT!
 
LIGHTS! CAMERA! TRACTION!
SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Count Duckula decides he wants to be a movie star, so he teleports Castle Duckula to Hollywood.  At Alfred Peacock Studios, Duckula gets his big break when a message he delivers to the famous director makes leading man Bird Reynolds run off the set.  
 
 
Count Duckula presents himself as Bird Reynold's stand in and with a bit of movie magic and makeup, Duckula becomes the spitting image of the famous actor.  Unfortunately, the reason Reynolds left becomes clear when his co-star, John "The Duke" Crane arrives on set. . .furious at Reynolds for going out with his girl.  
 
 
Hijinks ensue as John Crane mistakes the made up Duckula as Bird Reynolds and he chases him around the movie set, much to the delight of Alfred Peacock, who thinks the two of them are improvising a chase scene.  Duckula finally makes it back to Castle Duckula and escapes back to Transylvania.
 
 
The Butler, Igor, gives Count Duckula the bad news. . .Vampires can't be filmed.  But despite his Hollywood dreams going down the drain, Duckula is determined to be a star. . .next time on Broadway!
 
The End.
 
Like the first story, this one doesn't waste a bit of space.  The writer and artist work together to fill every panel with gags and give the reader fast-paced, zany, mistaken identity chase shenanigans.  I'm thinking this might be a running theme in Count Duckula because the second issue also follows the mistaken identity form (My daughter has 3 of these) in a very similar way.  
 
Once again, it's sort of hard to do justice to a story filled with constant art and story gags when trying to do a synopsis.  So I'll just say that once again, the gags don't all hit the mark, but the ones that do make this a fun read for all ages.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I think that this is actually the first pure "kid" comic I've reviewed here in Longbox Junk.  I took away a couple of interesting things:  First is that it's kind of hard to write a synopsis of these sort of gag-filled stories that doesn't sound a of a lot worse than the actual story. 
 
Second, I learned that (like a good classic cartoon short) just because something is aimed toward a younger audience, that doesn't mean there isn't some fun for adults too.  This comic was packed SO full of visual and written gags that there's a little something for everybody in here.
 
This comic was pretty far outside my usual zone, so I hope I at least did a decent job reviewing it.  The bottom line is that, even though it's written for kids, this was a fun read packed from end to end with zany gags.   It's not the greatest comic I've ever read, but it's far from the worst.  If you spot it in a bargain bin definitely grab it if you have a young kid who likes comics.  But be sure to give it a read yourself first!
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's still October, so that means MORE Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where you can find more comic reviews you never asked for than you could ever ask for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here in Longbox Junk by spotlighting  some of the spooky stuff lurking in the shadows of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

This time out, join me in taking a look at a Halloween Special one shot featuring Red Sonja. . .a character I wouldn't normally associate with Halloween.  But then again, I just reviewed a Jonah Hex Halloween issue a few posts back, so I guess in the world of comics just about anything goes.

SO. . .Red Sonja Halloween.  Let's do it!

RED SONJA

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

DYNAMITE (2018)

 
COVER: Reilly Brown
 
First, the cover.  Hmmmmm. . .not bad.  I like it.  I tend not to hang Red Sonja covers on my office wall's rotating comic collection because I don't want to get red-flagged for an awkward HR meeting, and this one definitely fits into that danger zone. . .that said, it's really well done.  It has a great feeling of motion, the pumpkin creature is amazing, and the colors are perfect.  I may not be able to hang this one up. . .even though the ladies at work don't seem to mind some Thor covers inviting them to the gun show. . .but it's a great Halloween cover.
 
Two stories in this issue. . .let's take a look.
 
CURSE OF THE WOLF
SCRIPT: Erik Burnham
PENCILS: Tom Garcia
 
Red Sonja rides into a village preparing to celebrate The Festival of Valahiei. . .which falls on the last day of Valahiei, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and when spirits are most easily able to visit the world of the living.  Halloween, in other words.
 
 
Later, while drinking and carousing in the local tavern, Sonja is approached by an old woman who claims to be in need of a warrior.  Her son is being held prisoner by a beast in the woods outside of town. . .a dangerous forest that only the most foolish would venture into on this night, of all nights.  Sonja agrees to help the old woman.
Red Sonja's new friend/drinking partner, Konnar, offers to guide her through the forest, and so the two of them set out on their adventure.  It isn't long before the pair discover why the villagers are so afraid of the woods as they are surrounded by spirits.  Sonja recognizes them as harmless shades, but then she hears a voice from her past. . .
 
 
It is the mocking voice of Sonja's arch-enemy, the sorcerer Kulan Gath, who Sonja had slain years before!  Sonja goes on the attack as the figure of Gath rises before her, but her sword does no harm because he is also merely a ghost, but one that has come to taunt her.  As Kulan Gath tells her that he is there to watch her last battle and he waits to torture her in , she ignores him and continues deeper into the forest.
 
Suddenly, a vicious creature attacks from the darkness, taking Sonja and Konnar by surprise and beheading Konnar.  It's a werewolf! A brutal battle between Sonja and the creature ensues, but in the end Sonja kills the beast. 
 
As Sonja recovers from the battle, the old woman from the tavern appears to thank her for killing the beast and freeing her son's soul. . .for they were one and the same.  Sonja is understandably upset by the old woman's deception.  The old woman turns into a spirit as the sun rises and thanks Sonja again, but the spirit's words ring hollow as Sonja considers the senseless death of her new friend, Konnar.  
 
The End.
 
Spirits and Werewolves in a dark forest.  I guess that technically makes this a Halloween story.  It's not a bad little tale, even though I'm not entirely sure of the reason it even exists. . .beyond the obvious reason of Dynamite squeezing a few bucks out of Red Sonja fans for a "special" issue.  But like I said. . .it's not bad.  It's well-written and has a nice mix of action and slower moments in the short space it's given.  
 
Probably the best part of this story for me was the art.  It's very nicely detailed and I really like that the artist portrays Sonja a bit differently than usual.  Where she is usually drawn as sort of a thin and very beautiful woman (see the cover for an example), this artist gives us a thicker, more muscular Sonja with a somewhat plain face. . .a more realistic look for a warrior, even if she IS still sporting a ridiculous barely-there chainmail bikini.  But it ain't Red Sonja without the trademark chainmail bikini, I guess.  
 
So. . .a pretty good story with lots of spirits and a cool battle against a werewolf, backed up with some great art featuring an unusual look for Red Sonja.  This first story is a winner! Moving on. . .
 
HAIL HALCOOSE!
SCRIPT: Tom DeFalco, Anthony Marques & Liam Marques
PENCILS: Anthony Marques & Avery Marques
 
Red Sonja's meal at a tavern is interrupted when a young girl tries to warn her about something, but is quickly taken away as hooded men attack.  Sonja is so enraged by this turn of events that she decides to beat her attackers down with a leg of mutton and mug of ale instead of even bothering to draw her sword.
After Sonja easily defeats her attackers, she learns from one of them that they were trying to capture her for a sacrifice to "Lord Halcoose".  Worse, the little girl that tried to warn her is also supposed to be sacrificed.  This doesn't sit well with Sonja at all.  She vows to find and kill this Lord Halcoose.
Elsewhere, a robed priest prays to a gigantic purple monstrosity. . .Halcoose.  The little girl who tried to warn Sonja is bound and prepared for sacrifice, but Sonja arrives just in time. . .
A short battle ensues and Sonja easily defeats both the priest and the creature. . .
 
 
When the battle is over, Sonja warns any other followers of Halcoose to steer clear of her or meet the same fate.  She then frees the young girl and advises her to get a sword.
 
The End.
 
Okay then.   Hmmmm. . .
 
Quite a bit of difference between this story and the first one, both in tone and art style.  This story looks and reads more like one of the all-ages DC Super-Hero Girls comics than a Red Sonja comic.  It's much lighter in tone than the somewhat dour first story, and the ending has a happy "Girl Power!" feel to it, rather than the unhappy ending of the first story.  
 
Likewise, where the art on the first story was finely-detailed and interesting, the art here is much more cartoony and exaggerated.
 
It may seem unfair to base my thoughts on this story by comparing them to another one, but the differences are jarring.  Taken on its own, this isn't a bad story at all.  It's extremely short and seems to have been written for a young female audience, but it's still pretty good.  The art is also quite different than what I would expect from a Red Sonja story, but for what it is, it's good and it fits the light tone of the story perfectly.
 
Still. . .it's a bit confusing to me exactly who this story was written for.
 

CONCLUSION

 
If I had to describe this comic in one word, that word would be: Confusing.
 
The two stories given in this issue aren't bad at all, but I fail to see anything but the thinnest connection to Halloween beyond the cover and a brief mention of a holiday of spirits in the first story, which could have been an adventure in ANY issue of Red Sonja without being in a special Halloween issue.
 
And then while the first story seems to have been written for existing fans of Red Sonja, the backup looks more like an all-ages "Girl Power!" offering aimed at young female readers. . .which I'm not sure is the average readership of Red Sonja's adventures.  The differences between the two stories are jarring.  
 
You can't really give this comic to a young girl because the first story is for a mature audience. . .but then again, half of this comic is written for kids, so adult readers are really only getting half a comic for their money.
 
Overall, despite a bit of confusion on my part as to who this comic is for, I enjoyed it.  The first story was well written and the art style spotlights an unusual vision of Red Sonja I'd like to see more of.  The second story is quick, light, and features some nice cartoon-style art.   
 
I'd say that if you're a fan of Red Sonja, then pick this one up if you spot it hiding in a bargain bin.  I'm not sure that anyone who isn't already a fan will get much mileage out of it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
There's still two weeks left before Halloween, so yep. . .MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk as I take a look at some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

What we have here today for your "I never asked for this, and where the heck did you even find it?" reading pleasure is a strange little comic book crossover of two "cult" horror television programs. . . and by "cult" I mean that generally people who were alive in the 70's might remember these shows, along with a good handful of rabid fans.

I'd be willing to take a bet that any random person  born after 1990 that I might stop and ask has never seen an episode of either one, and probably won't even know either of them ever existed (In their original forms.  One of the shows DID have an ill-advised reboot movie released in 2012 that came and went pretty quickly in the theaters).

The shows I'm talking about are Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Dark Shadows.

Of the two, Dark Shadows will probably ring more of a bell than Night Stalker, due to the aforementioned movie (A strange Johnny Depp/Tim Burton project which wasn't really THAT bad) and that Dark Shadows was originally on T.V. for 6 years and in pretty constant syndication throughout the 70's compared to Night Stalker's one single year of production and a few "Movie of The Week" specials.

Dark Shadows was basically a supernatural soap opera following the continuing spooky trials and tribulations of the Collins family and their Patriarch, Vampire Barnabas Collins, in and around the town of Collinsport, Maine.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker followed intrepid Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak as he investigates stories that lead him into paranormal adventures.  Unfortunately, by the end of each episode, the evidence of any paranormal connection has usually been destroyed. . .so he's a bit of a hard luck guy that just can't catch a break.

SO. . .

A comic crossover of two supernatural 70's "Cult" T.V. shows.  This seems like one of those sort of things that's either going to be a great little hidden gem or it's going to fail and fail hard.  Let's find out which one it is!

KOLCHAK TALES:

NIGHT STALKER ANNUAL #1

MOONSTONE (2009)

 
COVER: Doug Klauba
 
Let's take a look at the cover first.  I like it a lot! It looks like an old-school horror movie poster.   It's got some great colors and Barnabas Collins looming in center stage looks fantastic! The artist doesn't really capture the likeness of Kolchak actor Darren McGavin (a pretty prolific character actor probably most familiar today as the hilariously grumpy dad in A Christmas Story), but other than that, this is a very nicely-painted piece of Halloween fun!
 
Moving along, there's two stories in this double-sized issue. . .
 
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE?
SCRIPT: Mark Dawidziak & Rafael Nieves
PENCILS: Don Hudson
 
Reporter Carl Kolchak is down on his luck. . .moving from town to town and job to job following a string of supernatural encounters that he has no hard proof ever happened.  The bills are piling up and he's at his wits end.  
 
 
Then he receives a mysterious letter from a stranger named Barnabas Collins on the East Coast inviting him to a meeting.  The letter contains several specific details regarding one of Kolchak's more intense cases involving the Vampire/ Serial Killer Janos Skorzeny. 
 
Kolchak is curious and doesn't have anything else going on, so he travels by train across the country to the town of Collinsport, Maine. . .
 
 
 
Kolchak is met in Collinsport by a strange man named Loomis, who escorts him to the huge, rambling mansion named Collinwood.  He begins to suspect something is wrong when a frantic woman warns him not to go into "The Old House", which is exactly where Loomis brings him.  
 
 
Based on his previous encounters with vampires, Kolchak quickly determines that the mysterious Mr. Collins is one, and he prepares himself to confront Collins.  When Kolchak finally meets Barnabas Collins, he attacks him with a mirror and crucifix. . .neither of which have any affect on Collins.
 
Barnabas confesses to Kolchak that he WAS a vampire, but his curse has since been lifted.  He reveals that he was the one who turned a woman named Marie Cosgrove into a vampire in 1795, and it was she that turned Janos Skorzeny into a vampire in 1919.
 
Collins tells Kolchak that he met Skorzeny at one point and could tell he was a vicious killer, and that this meeting was so that Collins could thank Kolchak for ridding the world of the creature he was responsible for creating. . .and to warn him that Marie Cosgrove was still somewhere out there.
 
 
And with the burden of confession off Barnabas' shoulders and Kolchak warned that there was yet another vampire on the loose, the reporter returns by train to begin a new job in Los Angeles.
 
The End.
 
Hmmmmmmmm. . .okay then.  Not really what I was expecting.
 
Basically we have Kolchak travelling to Maine, thinking he's being lured into a trap, and then having a conversation with America's (former) King Vampire before heading back home.  When I put it THAT way and read it, this is a VERY thin story.
 
THIS is a perfect example of never judging a book by its cover (especially a comic book).  The cover promised a snarling Barnabas Collins menacing intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak.  Instead we get the later, non-vampire, Barnabas Collins just sort of standing around talking and apologizing for the misunderstanding that Kolchak thought he was going to be killed.
 
The art just makes it worse.  In the hands of a great artist, this extremely thin story might have been taken up a notch with some superbly-illustrated character moments.  Instead, we get some very basic and workmanlike art that doesn't really capture the likeness of either character's actor and is the very definition of "Average".
 
Overall, I'm not sure why this story even exists beyond Moonstone at one point having the comic rights for both characters.  This could have been so much more interesting.  As it is, it just seems lazy and pointless.  I'm not even sure rabid fans of either show would find this interesting beyond curiosity value.
 
Moving along. . .
 
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
SCRIPT: Joe Gentile & Dave Ulanski
PENCILS: Ron Harris
 
Reporter Carl Kochak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo, travel into the Nevada desert to investigate the disappearance of two people in an area that has become known for mysterious disappearances.  When they arrive, the reporters find the police less than helpful, so while Tony tries to pry information out of them, Kolchak investigates the surrounding area. . .
Kolchak finds several huge footprints that he follows into a natural maze of rocks, where he discovers a hidden cave entrance.  Inside are tools and objects much too large for normal human use. . .
As Kolchak further explores the maze of tunnels, he finds an exit outside and an area filled with human bones.  The horrified reporter is taken by surprise and thrown into a shallow pit by a gigantic human-like creature, who buries Kolchak alive!
Fortunately, Tony noticed Kolchak was missing and followed his trail up the mountain where the reporter was buried.  He digs Kolchak up and the two of them make a frantic escape back through the maze of tunnels with the enraged giant pursuing them. . .
After escaping the giant's lair, Kolchak and Tony tell the police that they found the bodies of the people who have gone missing, but beyond that there's no proof of the giant that almost killed them. . .but that's something Kolchak is used to.
The End.
 
This story was. . .well, it was bad.  There's no way to sugarcoat it.  It's just bad.  At least the first story had the curiosity factor of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Barnabas Collins coming together on the comic page, as well as a few decent character moments here and there. 
 
The best way I can describe the "badness" of this story is that it's just sort of annoying.  The dialogue is grating.  The situation of an actual giant in the Nevada desert is ridiculous.  The art doesn't try to do anything other than simply exist, and the whole thing just feels like it was thrown together to pad out this comic's page count so that Moonstone could charge SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY FRIGGIN' CENTAVOS for this "special" issue.
 
I. . .I just can't.  This story sucks.  That is all.  Carry on.
 

CONCLUSION

 
The cover price on this comic is $6.50.  That's about six bucks too much.  Okay. . .I have to admit the cover is worth the dollar I paid for this, but the rest of it feels like pure money grubbin'.  
 
The first story is a "Crossover" barely worthy of the name.  The second story is practically unreadable and is basically page count padding.  The whole thing reeks of minimum effort for maximum money.
 
Unless you are a rabid fan of Kolchak or Dark Shadows that simply MUST have everything to do with one or both properties, do yourself a favor and steer clear of this one.  It's a major disappointment.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!
 
It's October.  Leaves on the ground and spirits all around! We're having a little Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky comics in my (and my daughter's collection).
 
This time out, we're taking a look at one of the more unusual issues of Jonah Hex and. . .
 
Wait?  What's that you say?  Jonah Hex is a WESTERN comic?
 
So it is, my friends.  So it is. 
 
BUT. . .
 
Like in the Hulk series I reviewed the first issue of just a few days ago Jonah Hex is a character that's USUALLY pretty straightforward, but sometimes his series heads into some strange territory.  This particular issue being a fine case in point.

What we have here is a Jonah Hex Halloween Special guest starring Bat Lash and El Diablo (that was published in DECEMBER, for some strange reason) fighting against demonic creatures and a Prairie Witch.  It doesn't just head into strange territory, it runs in with guns blazing!  Let's take a look. . .
 

JONAH HEX (vol. 2)

DC (2007)

ISSUE #24

 
 

ALL HALLOWS EVE

Script: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils: David Michael Beck
Cover: David Michael Beck
 
Let's talk about the cover a moment before we get into the story.
 
It's. . .pretty good.  Nothing spectacular.  The cameos of Bat Lash and El Diablo look good, but Jonah Hex has a sort of goofy expression on his face.  The monochromatic tone doesn't really work great here either.  It just sort of mutes the whole cover down when it really calls for a sharp contrast between night sky, full moon, and fiery whip.
 
Plus I'm still wondering why a Halloween issue shipped in December. . .
 
The Story goes like this:
 
We begin in a bar where Bounty Hunter Jonah Hex and Gambler Bat Lash are betting on bare-knuckle fights.  After taking on a challenge from Lash, Hex easily beats the local champion.  A messenger brings Jonah a telegram and he immediately heads for the town of Coffin Creek with Bat Lash tagging along out of boredom.
 
 
 
Three weeks' ride later, Hex and Lash arrive in Coffin Creek.  The head to the local brothel to meet with the Madam, Crystal Ray, who is an old friend of Jonah's.  She is the one who sent the telegram.  She's called in a favor Hex owes her because there's a man in one of her rooms that nobody can get to leave.  Every person she's sent up to oust him has come back beaten.  The stranger has been asking specifically for Jonah Hex. . .
 
 
Inside the room is none other than El Diablo.  A hellbound living spirit of vengeance that Hex has encountered several times before.  His human host, Lazarus Lane, is nowhere to be seen.  Normally they aren't far apart.  Jonah demands to know where Lane is.  
 
El Diablo ignores him and wraps Hex in his fiery whip, telling the Bounty Hunter that the town of Coffin Creek is marked for death that very night and he has been imprisoned in that room and separated him from Lazarus Lane so he won't interfere with the town's fate.
 
As Hex struggles against El Diablo's whip, the spirit tells him that a Prairie Witch named Esmeralda lured Lane away from Diablo, and unless he is reunited with his human host within three hours, El Diablo will be forced to return to and everyone in town (including Hex) will die.
 
 
When Jonah leaves the room, Bat Lash is terrified when he sees Hex's eyes are glowing and he speaks with the twisted voice of El Diablo. . .who has possessed the Bounty Hunter!  Hex/Diablo demands that Bat Lash follow him.

As Hex and Lash walk through town toward the saloon where Esmeralda waits, Bat Lash sees everything as normal, but the possessed Jonah Hex sees twisted demonic entities roaming the town.  Two of them try to stop Hex and Lash from entering the saloon, but Jonah guns them down using the supernatural power of El Diablo . . .revealing their true form to Bat Lash as they die.

 
Once inside the saloon, Hex and Lash find Lazarus Lane bound and gagged, hanging from the ceiling.  The saloon is filled with dozens of people possessed by demons, as well as the Prairie Witch Esmeralda herself.  The demons all begin to whisper the name of Jonah Hex when he enters.

The Witch orders her demons to attack.  While the possessed Jonah Hex is able to gun down the possessed townfolk using the power of El Diablo, Bat Lash's bullets have no effect.  Seeing this, Jonah cuts down Lane and orders Lash to get him back to the brothel. . .

 

While possessed Jonah Hex and Esmeralda fight it out in the bar, Bat Lash carries Lazarus Lane through town, but all has broken loose!  Townfolk and demonic creatures are fighting in the streets.  Back in the saloon, Esmeralda is getting the upper hand on Hex.  El Diablo's powers are much weaker without his proper human host. . .

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

It's October, so we're having a bit of Halloween fun by spotlighting some of the spooky stuff in my (and my daughter's) collection.  This time out we're stepping into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and travelling back to 1963 for a Retro Review! 

As you can see from the number of "unknown" credits below, information on this issue is a bit sketchy.  To my knowledge, the review below is the only one that has ever been (and probably ever will be) written.  Once again, it makes me happy to know that writing this blog sometimes gives me the opportunity to fill in some missing comic knowledge out there for people who might be looking. 

The information on this series in general is pretty sketchy.  It had a pretty hefty run of 97 issues, because in those days publishers didn't care much about that sweet, sweet reboot #1 with multiple variant covers money.  They wanted a reliable seller to chug along as long as it possibly could.  Heck, 97 issues could probably be called a SHORT run back then!  This comic series actually outlasted Boris Karloff himself , who passed away in 1969 (the final issue came out in 1980).  But I digress. . .

This is actually a licensed property.  A tie-in to a short-lived anthology show similar to The Twilight Zone called "Thriller" that was hosted by Boris Karloff.  It only lasted 2 seasons. . .but once again, in those days a "season" was about FORTY episodes!  The show actually boasted a pretty stout roster of acting talent (including Karloff himself in several episodes).

I watched a couple episodes of the show last night while looking up information on this comic series, and I have to say I found it was actually pretty good (at least the ones I saw. . .one of which starred a young William "I. Will. Enunciate!" Shatner).  If you like Twilight Zone, you'll like Thriller.  It's a bit obscure, but definitely worth a look.  Full episodes can be found on Youtube.

The comics actually started coming out AFTER the final episode of the T.V. show and, like the show, had Boris Karloff as the host, setting up each story at the beginning and then showing up at the end to deliver a punch line, moral, or similar pithy epilogue.

But enough background.  Let's take a look at this comic. . .

BORIS KARLOFF

TALES OF MYSTERY

GOLD KEY (1963)

ISSUE 3

COVER: Unknown (George Wilson?)
 
As usual, let's take a look at the cover before we get into the stories inside.
 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  In my extremely humble opinion, Gold Key has some of the best painted comic book covers EVER.  No matter what's inside, Gold Key has some reliably great covers. . .and this one is no exception.
 
I love the dark sea stretching from top to bottom and side to side, filling almost the entire cover.  In a small space, the artist manages to capture the vast emptiness of the ocean perfectly!  The tiny figures on the storm-tossed boat reinforce the sense of scale, and the beautifully-detailed ring adds a sense of mystery.  
 
This isn't the BEST Gold Key cover (My personal favorite is on their 1968 one shot adaptation of King Kong), but it stands right up there in the long list of great covers put out by the company.
 
There's no firm information on WHO painted this cover, but based on the Gold Key covers I DO know the artist of, my best guess would be prolific Gold Key cover artist George Wilson.  Don't take it as absolute, but I'm 90% sure Wilson painted this beauty.
 
So that's the cover.  Let's get into the stories. . .
 
RING OF FEAR
SCRIPT: Eric Friewald & Robert Schaefer
PENCILS: Dan Spiegle
16 pages
 
 
 
A trail of murder and betrayal follows those who possess an ancient and priceless Aztec ring, beginning with the death at sea of famous explorer (and the ring's discoverer) John Ruskin.  Ruskin's daughter Mary is convinced that an Aztec curse is at work as those around the ring die under mysterious circumstances.
 
When the ring finally passes into the hands of her brother, Mary decides to end the curse by throwing the ring into the sea. . .but as she does, she slips and falls down a cliff, almost dying herself.  Mary's brother reveals that the ring is a fake.  The real ring is in a museum vault.  
 
All the death following the Aztec ring wasn't from a curse, but the result of greed.
 
The End.
 
Not a bad story at all.  A bit predictable, but very well-written as it follows the twists and turns of the fates of the men who die for their greed.  The art is also surprisingly good for a Silver Age comic, but once I found out Dan Spiegle was the artist, I wasn't as surprised.  He was an extremely solid and prolific artist  and his fine character work here elevates the story beyond the simple morality tale in the script.
 
All in all, a very enjoyable story and a great start!
 
JONAH
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
Next, we have the first of three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries in this issue.  This one briefly sketches the true story of the only man known to have been swallowed by a whale and survive to tell the tale.  There's nothing spectacular about this page-count filler.  It's a straightforward retelling of the event with serviceable artwork.  Here it is in its entirety. . .
 
 
 
TARGET: EARTH
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Unknown
 
Next, we come to a text piece that I found pretty interesting.  It's a straight science piece about the danger the Earth is in from being hit by an asteroid, using previous impacts as examples of our imminent doom.  It seems a bit out of place, but it's also probably the scariest thing to be found in this comic.
 
 
 
THE SECRET OF OAK ISLAND
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
Now we come to the second of the three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries.  This one briefly sketches out the discovery of the Oak Island Money Pit. . .something my wife is now absolutely obsessed with, thanks to "The Curse of Oak Island" reality show on History Channel.  But I digress!  Basically, a mysterious pit with some strange artifacts was discovered on an island off the coast of Canada, but nobody has managed to get to the bottom of it yet, despite hundreds of years and millions of dollar's worth of trying. 
 
This brief introduction to the mystery is pretty straightforward (Here, they credit pirates with creating the Money Pit), with art that tells the story, but doesn't try too hard.  Here in its entirety. . .
 
 
 
NIGHT CALLER
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Mike Sekowsky
12 pages
 
 
 
Next, we come to the second "feature" story.  It goes like this. . .
 
In the Amazon Jungle a Witch Doctor keeps the local villagers in constant fear of the evil spirits she can summon.  Only her daughter, Zilma, is free to do as she pleases. . .up to a point.  Zilma is in love with a man named Pablo.  The Witch Doctor doesn't like Pablo.
 
The Witch Doctor tells her tribe that she has seen Pablo bring sickness to them in her dreams, driving them into a frenzy.  With Pablo's life in danger, he and Zilma run away with the help of two friendly Peace Corps volunteers. . .but the Witch Doctor uses a voodoo doll to make Zilma sick.
 
Pablo uses a little magic of his own when he throws a rock and tells it to find the cause of Zilma's sickness.  The Witch Doctor is seen falling to her death off of a cliff.  It's uncertain whether it was an accident or if Pablo's magic was the cause.
 
Pablo becomes the tribe's new Witch Doctor and all ends well.
 
The End.
 
Okay, I'm gonna be honest here.  This story is pretty bad.  Unlike the tight and clever narrative of the opening story (even if the ending was a bit predictable), this one wanders all over the place.  In my description of the story above, I just followed the main line of the story.  There are several sub-plots that appear and disappear throughout the story.
 
There's an alligator that may or may not be a spirit creature.  There's the Peace Corps workers accidentally opening the tomb of Pablo's father with dynamite and his angry spirit wandering around.  There's another spirit that comes out of a stew pot that may or may not have been summoned by the Witch Doctor to attack Zilma.  That's a lot of sub-plot in twelve lousy pages. . .especially since most of it has little to no bearing on the main storyline.
 
The art also takes a downhill slide compared to the opening story.   There, fine lines and great character work enhanced the story.  Here, the art is clumsy and workmanlike, featuring sloppy colors and Amazon natives with Elvis Presley hair.  There, I found the art unexpectedly good for a Silver Age comic.  Here, it's sadly exactly what I expect.
 
I realize that comparing one story with another might seem a bit unfair, but even taken on its own and without comparison, this story has an unfocused narrative and art that is okay, but doesn't even try to reach any higher than that.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE MAN WHO LIVED FOREVER
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
The comic closes out with the last one page spotlight on true mysteries in history.  This one briefly sketches the mystery of the Count of Saint-Germain. . .a historic figure who made outlandish claims that led people to believe he was hundreds of years old.  I'm no expert, but from what I've read of this, it seems to be a case of someone saying whatever he wanted without fear of anyone being able to prove him wrong.  These days, I'm pretty sure a $30 background check and some Google detective work would be enough to keep his name out of the history books.  Here's the feature in its entirety. . . 
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
First, I realize this isn't a "Horror" comic at all.  I didn't know that coming in.  Since Boris Karloff was such an influential figure in the horror genre, I assumed that a Boris Karloff comic would be a horror comic.  It's actually more of a "Suspense" comic in the vein of Twilight Zone.  
 
Does that make it a BAD comic?  Not really.  It's not a great comic by any means, but it has a very nice signature Gold Key painted cover, a really good opening story, and a couple of somewhat interesting features.  Unfortunately, the second story isn't very good, which basically puts about half the comic under the bar.
 
Good taken with bad, I'd have to say this comic is still pretty good and worth picking up if you come across it for a decent price.  It's not something I'd really recommend putting effort into hunting down, but I'd also say not to pass it by if you happen to see it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm fillin' your pumpkin bucket as full of Halloween Longbox Junk as I can.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked me for!

It's October!  That means trick or treatin', candy eatin', and horror comics in Longbox Junk!

What we have here today is part of Marvel's short-lived effort at a bit of a monster comic revival a few years back.  This particular one shot is one of a set of three (the other two are Satana and Man-Thing) meant to re-introduce some Marvel Monster characters back into continuity in order to form a supernatural "Legion of Monsters" team.

Well. . .as you can probably guess by this comic landing here at Longbox Junk, it didn't really work out.  Legion of Monsters made just a few appearances as a team (most notably in the notorious Punisher "Franken-Castle" storyline and their own 4 issue mini) before they faded back into obscurity.

BUT. . .

Just because something didn't take hold and ended up in the bargain bin, does that make it bad?  That's the sort of question I started Longbox Junk to answer!  Let's take a look a closer look at this little relic of a failed Marvel experiment. . .

LEGION OF NIGHT:

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT

MARVEL (2007)

 
COVER: Greg Land
 
As usual, before we get into the comic, let's take a look at the cover.  And what a cover it is!
 
Greg Land is a sort of divisive figure among comic fans.  He's got a bit of a bad reputation that I'm not going to get into.  You either like Greg Land's art or you don't.  I happen to fall on the "Like" side of the controversy fence.  
 
Controversial artist or not, I LOVE this cover!  It simply screams Halloween at me.  It's a pretty simple composition, but just look at the werewolf's feral face and reaching, clawed hand!  There's a feeling of depth and motion. . .a story moment captured in one image that is simply outstanding. In my extremely humble opinion, the cover alone is worth grabbing this comic from the bargain bin if you spot it.  
 
Now let's check out the two stories inside. Fair warning. . .if you're a Greg Land hater, just skip to the backup because he's on art for the opener.  Everyone in that's staying in? Let's do it!
 
SMALLTOWN GIRL
SCRIPTS: Mike Carey
PENCILS: Greg Land
 
The story goes like this:
 
A young woman named Rhona was born a werewolf in a small Alabama town, but learned ways to control herself. Shortly after her mother and sister are killed by self-styled monster hunters, she goes to the local bar, knowing they will come for her too.  While there, she has a chance encounter with a handsome stranger. . .the only person besides her family who has ever treated her kindly.
 
 
 
It isn't long before the group of "Monster Hunters" shows up.  One of them uses tarot cards to briefly reveal the monster inside Rhona.  She calmly accepts that it's her fate to die that night. . .
 
 
 
What Rhona doesn't know is that the handsome stranger is none other than Jack Russell. . .Werewolf by Night!  He's not going to just sit there and watch Rhona let herself be killed by amateur Monster Hunters.  He takes them by surprise as he transforms into a werewolf and goes on the attack!
 
 
As Jack fights the rest of the Monster Hunters, Rhona is caught up in a deadly struggle with the woman who read her tarot cards and revealed proof she was a werewolf.  Rhona realizes the only way she can survive is to fully release the monster inside her for the first time. . .
 
 
After the battle is won, Jack comforts a traumatized Rhona as she looks over the slaughter she was part of.  Jack tells her that suppressing the beast just made it worse, and he can help her.  They leave together.
 
 
The End.
 
Not a bad little story.  Very short. . .really more of a vignette than anything.  But it was well-written and engaging.  That said. . .
 
For a re-introduction of Jack Russell to Marvel continuity supposedly aimed at new readers, there wasn't really much of an introduction here at all.  The story is told from Rhona's point of view and looking back over it again, I realize that Russell's name isn't even mentioned once!  This is much more an introduction to Rhona (who I'm not even sure even appeared anywhere else other than here) than it is to Werewolf by Night Jack Russell.
 
Does that make it a bad story? No.  I liked it quite a bit.  It just seems like a strange story choice for what's supposed to be an introduction.
 
As for the art.  It's Greg Land.  In the eyes of some comic fans, no matter WHAT he does it's not going to be good.  I'm not one of those fans.  I like his realistic style and I don't really care if he photo-references.  If you don't like Greg Land, you're going to hate this.  I didn't hate this.  Taking an honest look at just the art and leaving the artist's reputation out of it, I say it's pretty good.
 
NEXT!
 
TO BE A MONSTER
SCRIPTS: Skottie Young
PENCILS: Skottie Young
 
There's a backup story in all three of the Legion of Monsters one shots spotlighting one of the supporting characters of the team.  In Satana, it's The Living Mummy.  In Man-Thing, it's Simon Garth: Zombie.  In this one, it's Frankenstein's Monster. . .er. . .The Monster of Frankenstein.  Not sure if that's a copyright thing, but it doesn't sound right for some reason.  But I digress!
 
The story goes like this:
 
Our story begins long ago (it looks like maybe the story is set in the late 18th Century) as an escaped prisoner flees for his life from the men hunting him.  He stumbles upon a church in an abandoned town and seeks sanctuary, only to meet a fate. . .
 
 
In a neighboring town, local clergy have gathered to decide what to do about the false priest luring and killing people using the mask of the church to carry out his nefarious deeds.  It is known among them that one of their number hides a powerful monster in his own church. . .a monster that could be used to destroy the false priest.  
 
The priest who hides the monster protests, insisting that the creature has come to know peace through and has put aside his old violent ways.  He is commanded by his superior to set forth the monster upon the false priest. . .
 
 
 
The Monster reluctantly agrees to take the task given to him and leaves for the church in the abandoned town.  Inside, he finds evidence of gruesome experiments.  He discovers a journal and begins to read. . .
 
 
The Monster discovers the tale of a Doctor McCauley, who fell from good standing by using and furthering the research of the Monster's own creator, Doctor Frankenstein, to bring life to corpses.  Disgraced, McCauley left for the wilderness, where he poses as a priest in order to lure victims for his continued experiments. . .
 
 
As the Monster reads McCauley's journal, the false priest confronts him. . .along with several of his creations, more powerful than the original Monster of Frankenstein by virtue of having been created with freshly-killed bodies.  The Monster informs the mad scientist that he has been sent to end him.  Upon hearing this, a brutal battle between the Monster and McCauley's creations begins. . .
 
 
 
After defeating his creations, the Monster kills McCauley and sets fire to his laboratory before returning home.  The priest that had hidden him shows remorse for sending the Monster to kill again and begs for mercy, but the Monster kills the priest and leaves. . .knowing he will never have peace as long as the church knows where he is.
 
 
The End.
 
What a great little story!  As much as I enjoyed the opening Werewolf by Night story, I very much preferred this one.  Skottie Young does a great job writing (I know him more as an artist) a dreamlike, thoughtful tale of mankind as the monster.  Like the opening story, this one is very short, but seems longer because there's quite a bit more meat on the bone.
 
Like I said above, I know Skottie Young as more of an artist than a writer, but I'm used to a more cartoony, whimsical, humorous sort of art from him. . .so the art in this story took me by surprise as much as his writing did!  It's dark and twisted. . .adding to the heavy, dreamlike nature of the story and perfectly complimenting it.
 
The final full-pager of the Monster leaving yet another false sanctuary is a stunning portrait that I'd really like to have a poster of and is a fine piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
 
Overall, I liked both of the stories in this one shot, but found the backup to be superior in almost every way to the main feature.  If you are a horror comic fan (and aren't a Greg Land hater) then do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for this little Longbox Junk gem in the bargain bin.  You won't be disappointed.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - Immortal Hulk #1

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked me for!

It's October!  Leaves are on the ground and there's a chill in the air.  Halloween is just around the corner, so I like to have a little Longbox Junk Halloween fun this time of year by spotlighting some horror comics in my (and my daughter's) collection.

This time out, I'm stepping outside of the bargain bin just a bit and taking a look at the first issue of a Marvel book that sort of took the comic fandom by surprise.  I'm talking about Al Ewing and Joe Bennett' series,  "Immortal Hulk" (now on issue 24, as of this writing).

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews that people don't USUALLY  ask for. That's right. . .it's another Longbox Junk Reader Request Edition!

A little while back, my comic lovin' daughter (and occasional Longbox Junk collaborator) challenged me to do some reader requests.  So I put out the call, got a nice list of suggestions, and put them in a hat (an actual hat, BTW) for a random draw.

Congratulations to Brucifer! Your suggestion for Vertigo's American Vampire is the next Longbox Junk Reader Request Edition.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!

As a Special Offer good for today only, if you order this wonderful Longbox Junk Reader Request Edition, you'll ALSO get the first entry in the Longbox Junk Halloween Celebration ABSOLUTELY FREE!

A bit of introduction before we get into these comics. . .

I've been a fan of DC's "mature readers" Vertigo imprint from Day One.  My favorite ongoing titles were Hellblazer, Books of Magic, and Preacher.  But they also put out so many great one shots and mini-series that I can't even think of them all!  And then they had popular titles like Sandman, Swamp Thing, Y: The Last Man, and Doom Patrol that I was less of a fan of, but were major critical slam dunks for DC.

BUT. . .

As more "Mature" stories started to filter into the mainstream, Vertigo started to sort of fade away.  That doesn't mean they weren't still putting out some great stuff.  Just look at Scalped and DMZ for some excellent later Vertigo comics.  Sadly, even after recent efforts at a Vertigo "Reboot", the imprint has finally come to an end.   American Vampire was one of the titles that came out during Vertigo's slow fade from the comic store shelves.

As the title suggests, it's the tale of a new breed of vampire that was accidentally created in the western United States during the late 1800's.  So in other words, Cowboy Vampires!  Well, at least for starters.  The story expands as the series goes on through the decades.   But at first. . .Cowboy Vampires!

There's a couple of things about American Vampire that might interest comic fans reading this.  The first is that it is superstar DC writer Scott Snyder's (Best known for New 52 Batman, Dark Knights: Metal, and The Batman Who Laughs) first professional ongoing comic series.  The second is that it was written in collaboration with bestselling horror author Stephen King. . .who is also the writer of a backup story in the first five issues.

Cowboy Vampires, Scott Snyder's breakout comic series, and Stephen King.  Is there any way this CAN'T be good?  Let's find out!

WARNING: American Vampire fully embraced its Vertigo "Mature Readers" label.  This series is NOT for kids.  It has nudity, violence, gory images, and bad language. None of it is gratuitous.  It's all part of the story and not just to be there because it can be there.  But once again. . .not for kids.  Some of the covers and pictures in this review might not be appropriate for all audiences.  Let's call this one PG-13.

Okay.  Everyone in that's staying in?  Let's do it.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE

VERTIGO (2010)

Issues 1 - 5

ISSUE ONE

COVERS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
BIG BREAK
SCRIPTS: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque

Our story begins in July, 1925.
In the desert East of Los Angeles, a young woman's body is dumped into a ditch. . .but she's still barely alive.  Shifting back to 3 days previously, we discover that the woman is named Pearl Jones.  Pearl and her best friend/ roommate, Hattie, are aspiring actresses grinding their way up through bit parts while working several jobs each.

An unexpected break comes their way when handsome movie star Chase Hamilton invites Pearl to a Hollywood party being thrown at the mansion of famous producer B.D. Bloch.  A mysterious stranger tries to warn Pearl not to go, but she ignores him.

Later, at the party  Pearl is taken upstairs to meet Mr. Bloch, but instead of getting the big break she's looking forward to, Pearl is attacked by a room full of fanged men!  

To be continued. . .

This has to be one of the best introductory issues I've read in a long time!  The characters, setting, and situation are presented quickly and in a very cinematic manner.  I can almost visualize this story as playing out on my T.V. screen while I read it.  It's short (because these first few issues share page space with a backup story) and moves at a snappy pace, but the characters are sketched out nicely for being in such a small space and likeable enough that I REALLY want to grab the next issue and see what happens.

But the story is only half the story here!   Rafael Albuquerque knocks it out of the park with some slightly exaggerated, but realistic, art that perfectly captures the scene and fits Snyder's quick, cinematic storytelling style like a glove.  Kudos to the great colors and thick, dark inks as well!  


Overall, this is what a first issue SHOULD be!  It's a perfect storm of art and writing coming together to give a great introduction to this series that immediately grabs the reader and makes me want to jump right into the next issue and see what happens next.
 
BUT. . .
 
Not yet.
 
In these first few issues, there's also a prequel story by Master Horror Storyteller Stephen King! You were wondering where the Cowboy Vampires I promised were? This is it.  Let's take a look.
 
BAD BLOOD
SCRIPTS: Stephen King
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque 

The scene shifts back in time 45 years to Colorado, 1880.

We find ourselves aboard a train carrying notorious thief and murderer, Skinner Sweet, to a trial and eventual hanging in New Mexico.  Also aboard are the man who captured him, Pinkerton Agent James Book, as well as Special Agent Henry Finch, several deputies, a mysterious banker named Mr. Percy, and a retinue of reporters and writers following the story (including Will Bunting, the narrator of the tale).

As Sweet relates to James Book the true story behind the botched bank robbery and resulting murders 6 months previously that finally set the Pinkertons on his trail, Book and the rest of the train's passengers don't realize that the rest of Sweet's gang are laying an ambush to rescue their captured leader.

After the train derails on a section of track that Sweet's gang destroyed, Skinner makes his escape during the commotion, then he and his gang begin to brutally gun down the rest of the survivors of the wreck.  But there's more to mysterious banker Percy than they counted on. . .

He transforms into a vicious monster and attacks Skinner Sweet, killing him before fleeing.  The rest of Sweet's gang rides away as the few survivors of the wreck left, including James Book, turn on them.  Sweet is left for dead in the Colorado desert, but the narrator assures us that the story is only beginning.

To be continued. . .
Stephen King is one of my favorite writers, and he does not disappoint here.  Like the opening tale, this introduction to killer and thief Skinner Sweet is pretty short, due to having to share page space, but it's like a burning fuse sputtering its way to an explosive end.  The tension slowly builds until that final page where the narrator tells us that's this is only the beginning.  It's a fantastic introduction to an unusual take on the vampire mythos that easily stands alongside any of King's best short stories.
 
But as good as the story is, the art actually steps it up a notch from the opener.   It's the EXACT same art team, but somehow,  Rafael Albuquerque almost makes it look like two different artists worked on this comic! Instead of the bold, crisp lines of the opening story, there's a sort of watercolor look to this one that I really like.  Compare the page scan above with this one and tell me it doesn't look almost like two separate art teams.  Very nicely done.
 
 
Overall, this prequel story is a tasty little bite of Stephen King doing what he does best. . .putting a new slant on tried and true horror tropes with interesting characters you want to know more about.   Rafael Albuquerque delivers a surprising change of art that perfectly fits the flashback style of the story.
 
In my extremely humble opinion, with the two stories taken together, American Vampire #1 is about as close as I've seen to a practically perfect first issue.  Is there anything bad to say about this?  The stories are a bit too short.  Other than that, I've got nothin'.  What a great start! Let's get into the next issue. . .

ISSUE TWO

 
MORNING STAR
SCRIPTS: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Pearl's friend, Henry, and her roommate, Hattie, search for Pearl after she doesn't come home from the party at Bloch's mansion.  They find her stumbling through the desert covered with bites and barely alive.  At the hospital, the doctors say that there's nothing they can do. . .the blood loss from the "animal bites" is too great and Pearl is going to die.  Later that night, the mysterious stranger who tried to warn her away from Bloch's party secretly visits Pearl on her deathbed.
 
Pearl wakes up and is horrified to find herself in the hospital's morgue.  She manages to make her way to her apartment only to find the stranger waiting there for her.  He tells her that she's dead, but he's made her into something. . .different.  He then explains that vampires are real, and that she was killed by a group of them.  But he and Pearl are a different breed of vampire. . .stronger, able to withstand sunlight. Weakest during the dark of the moon.  He tells her that he's given her what she needs to take her revenge. 
 
 
After he leaves, she discovers a note signed "Skinner Sweet".  She also discovers Chase Hamilton. . .the actor who gave her to the vampires. . .tied up in her closet.  Hunger overcomes her and she transforms into a horrific creature and brutally kills the actor.  
 
 
To be continued. . .
 
Moving past the introductions and setup of the first issue, the story picks up the pace and moves straight into horror territory with Pearl becoming the second of a new breed of American Vampire and being manipulated into doing Skinner Sweet's dirty work by his placing her on a path of revenge.
 
I really liked Snyder's angle of Sweet seeing an opportunity to create a weapon in order for him to avoid direct conflict with the European Vampires he is hunting.  It adds a devious layer of character beyond what was seen in the backup story with him just being a wild west sociopath that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  
 
Once again, this story is incredibly cinematic and fast-paced. . .moving along quickly in the limited space given, but still managing to add new layers and elements to the story as it goes along.   Rafael Albuquerque's art remains outstanding, and his vision of the American Vampire is truly horrific as Pearl transforms into a feral, hissing creature with a gaping, fanged mouth and giant claws.  These ain't your sparkly Twilight Vampires, folks.  I love it!
 
Overall, the story keeps going strong and once again I just want to jump right into the next issue.
 
BUT FIRST. . .
 
Stephen King's Prequel backup continues.
 
DEEP WATER
SCRIPTS: Stephen King
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
We pick up outlaw Skinner Sweet's story in 1880 shortly after his "death".
 
Pinkerton Agent James Book discovers that during his pursuit of Skinner Sweet, the outlaw killed Book's wife with a poisoned bottle of wine sent as a present from her husband.  
 
As the devastated Book and his most trusted deputy and friend return to New Mexico to grieve his murdered wife, we see that Skinner Sweet is not truly dead, but trapped and slowly going insane in a coffin underground.
 
The story moves forward to 1883, when the town Skinner Sweet is buried in is flooded underwater by a dam.  We see that Sweet is still alive as the graveyard is flooded.
 
The story moves forward another 2 years to 1885, showing Jim Book throwing himself into his work. . .capturing the worst criminals of the last days of the old west, along with his faithful deputy, Felix Camillo, and writer Will Bunting.  The story continues through various events in Book, Camillo, and Bunting's lives until the year of 1909 and Lakeview, Colorado. . .the town built to replace the one that the dam flooded in 1883.
 
A team of divers searching for Skinner Sweet's grave in hopes of finding his skull for a collector (Sweet has become a legendary figure of the Old West by this time) explore the flooded graveyard. . .and unfortunately, they find what they're looking for.  
 
When they find and open his coffin, they free Skinner Sweet from his prison.  He quickly slaughters the diving team and makes his way toward Lakeview, swearing vengeance on James Book and Mr. Percy.
 
To be continued. . .
 
This chapter of Kings Skinner Sweet prequel is pretty much what I would call a "Montage".  It quickly moves the story forward through time 20 years and into the 20th Century when Skinner Sweet is a wild west legend and James Book is practically forgotten.  It's still good and definitely bears the fingerprints of Stephen King's character-driven horror style, but it's told in passing snippets and flashes that maybe make the story move by a bit TOO fast. 
 
 I'm thinking maybe an extra issue here would have been nice.  Now that I think about it, a five part story arc is pretty unusual when most trades are built around six issue arcs.  I wonder if that was King's doing or DC's.  
 
The art maintains the more painted style seen in the first issue.  I'm still sort of amazed at  Rafael Albuquerque's ability to make it almost look like another art team was working on the backup when the exact same people are credited!  I particularly liked the underwater scenes of the doomed diving team exploring the flooded frontier town of Sidewinder.  
 
 
Overall, the second issue is still running on all cylinders.  The opening tale of broken Hollywood dreams is moving toward becoming a blood-drenched revenge story, while the backup story of the strange death of an outlaw is moving in the same direction, but on a different path.  I like the sort of warped mirror being held up between the two main characters.  
 
That said. . .two strong issues don't complete a five issue story.  There's still plenty of room for this to go off the rails, and I've seen it happen many a time in my days of Longbox Junkin'.  Will Snyder and King keep a steady hand on the wheel and drive this home to an end as good as the beginning?  Let's get into the next issue and find out!

ISSUE THREE

 
ROUGH CUT
SCRIPTS: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Pearl Jones warns her friend, Hattie, that she needs to leave town because anyone close to Pearl is going to be in danger.  In the meantime, the European Vampires debate on what to do when the slaughtered body of Chase Hamilton is discovered. . .wrongly assuming that it was the work of Skinner Sweet.  They send two younger vampires to investigate.
 
As the vampires leave the mansion, Pearl follows and attacks their car, easily killing them both and their human driver in the daylight.  Later, as the sun sets and the moonless night begins, a weakened Pearl seeks refuge on her musician friend Henry's boat.  
 
Pearl tells Henry the truth of what's happened to her.  He doesn't believe her, but says he'll still help.  After Pearl falls into a coma-like sleep for a full day, the next night Henry gets a phone call from a terrified Hattie.  When Pearl takes the phone, a Vampire answers and tells her that he will exchange Hattie for Pearl near the Hollywood sign that night.  
 
Henry tries to keep a still-weakened Pearl from going, but she steals his car and heads for the meeting, determined to save her friend and get her revenge.
 
To be continued. . .
 
This third issue begins to slip a little bit.  I'm not saying it's bad.  Not at all.  The story is still strong and moves along at a quick pace, adding more layers of detail in the short space given as it goes.  The art is also still extremely strong, with the contrast between the decadent European vampires and the fierce, feral American vampire being probably the best aspect in this particular issue.
 
BUT. . .
 
Like I mentioned in the review of the backup prequel story in issue two. . .I think maybe another issue might have been needed about here in the series.  It seems to me that the story might be moving a bit TOO fast through the middle.  
 
In particular, Pearl goes from being a mentally-exhausted wannabe Hollywood starlet to a snarling anti-hero bent on vengeance WAY too quickly.  There's very little transition.  
 
Skinner Sweet turned her and told her what was going on last issue and she just sort of accepted it and moved straight into being a -bent revenge monster fully in control of her new powers in this issue. . .cracking jokes as she easily slaughters vampires after a high-speed chase.  
 
I get that Snyder is telling a fast-paced story in an extremely cinematic style, but an issue of Pearl coming to terms with her new state of being would have been nice about here.
 
 
Despite the story seeming to move a little TOO fast in this issue, great art and an entertaining take on the tried and true vampire mythos are enough to keep me fully on board.  
 
BLOOD VENGEANCE
SCRIPTS: Stephen King
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Stephen King's Skinner Sweet prequel story continues right from where it left off in issue #2, with the newly-freed Sweet coming into the town of Lakeview after being imprisoned in a coffin underwater for 20 years.  Sweet is confused by signs advertising motion pictures and telephones. . .not realizing he's been trapped for two decades.
 
After killing the owner of a candy shop and satisfying his blood hunger (and sweet tooth), Sweet has a run-in with the local police, who he brutally kills in the street in full view of the town. . .and the European Vampires led by Mr. Percy watching from the bank.  
 
When they see Sweet walking in full daylight, Percy realizes that he accidentally created something new and extremely dangerous.  The police chief. . .former Special Agent Henry Finch and one of those responsible for Sweet's capture in 1880, along with Mayor Camillo. . .the father of James Book's trusted deputy Felix Camillo, gather a posse to confront the killer roaming their streets.
 
Sweet blows up a building with dynamite, and then brutally slaughters the posse after realizing their gunfire isn't harming him.  He tortures the location of James Book out of Henry Finch before killing him, then beheads Mayor Camillo and mails the head to Felix Camillo, telling him to bring Book and meet him at an old mine that Sweet used to use as a hideout.
 
In the meantime, the European Vampires contact Sweet's old gang, who know exactly where Skinner will be heading. . .to the old mine where they used to stash their loot.  And so James Book and company, Skinner Sweet, and the European Vampires all begin moving in the same direction.
 
To be continued. . .
 
Moving forward from the "montage" style story of the last issue, this chapter of Skinner Sweet's story sets the pieces in place for what will surely be a showdown.  There's quite a bit of action in this issue as Sweet kills his way through the unfortunate town of Lakeview, and Rafael Albuquerque's art doesn't flinch from showing the gory results.  When Skinner Sweet transforms into the feral American Vampire,  Albuquerque's vision of him is truly horrific!  Like I said before. . .these ain't your sexy sparkling Twilight vampires here.  
 
Although King's story is still strong, the coincidences needed for the pieces to move into place for the final showdown between Sweet and Book ARE a bit hard to swallow. . .namely the FIRST town Skinner stumbles into after being imprisoned for 20 years having both one of the men responsible for his capture AND the father of another AND having the very vampire that made Skinner Sweet into the creature he's become. 
 
It seems like maybe Stephen King could have done this a bit differently and in a way that doesn't require so much suspension of disbelief.
 
 
Maybe I'm just having a hard time finding things to pick at in this highly-entertaining take on vampires, and I'm just pulling at little threads.  But in my extremely humble opinion, the main story turns Pearl Jones into a revenge-driven monster in full control of her new powers way too quickly and the backup is propped up on unlikely coincidence.  
 
Even given those flaws, this is still a great story backed up with some great artwork.  I'm just hoping that the few bad things I've noticed don't begin to magnify as this series moves into the final two issues.  
 
An extra note that may be of interest to readers of this blog who haven't read these comics is that on the last page of this issue is an excellent and heartfelt tribute to the then recently departed Giordano by Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger.  It's a great little memorial to a comic industry legend that you'll miss if you read these online or in trade.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE FOUR

 
DOUBLE EXPOSURE
SCRIPTS: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
After a short flashback showing how Pearl and Hattie met at a diner, the scene shifts to the present and Pearl arriving at the Hollywood sign to confront the European Vampires that have taken her best friend hostage.
 
After freeing Hattie, the head vampire (movie producer B.D. Bloch) informs Pearl that she will be imprisoned and experimented on until they discover the new breed of vampire's weakness.  As Pearl readies herself to fight, she is taken by surprise as her best friend Hattie attacks her from behind!
 
Hattie reveals that she's been working for the Vampires the whole time, and it was she who dumped Pearl's body in the ditch and left her for dead.  While Pearl is distracted by this upsetting turn of events, the rest of the vampires go on the attack.
 
Pearl's friend Henry arrives just in time to grab badly-wounded Pearl and make their escape in his car, but the vampires pursue them.  One car chase and narrow escape later, as the sun rises, Pearl is near death and Henry lets her drink some of his blood to heal herself, and in the process a bit of romance begins to bloom.  NOW he believes in Vampires.
 
Pearl is defeated and depressed at her betrayal and narrow escape.  She wants to run and hide.  Henry convinces her that she'll never be safe and the vampires will always find her eventually.  The only thing to do is for them to go on the attack during the day when they're at their weakest. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
I read these comics as they came out monthly, but it's been a while and I didn't remember Hattie's villain turn so it caught me by surprise.  It's a great twist!  The later scenes of Pearl agonizing over the attack really hit a good character spot.  Pearl is less upset at being betrayed and attacked than she is at the thought of losing her best friend.  Henry steps in to fill that space, but it's still a great story moment in a chapter that is pretty action-heavy as it leads up to the final confrontation.
 
Unfortunately, among the great action scenes of Pearl escaping the vampire trap, there's a glaring plot hole that took me right out of what was happening. In the last issue, Pearl steals Henry's car and leaves him behind to confront the vampires alone.  In this issue, Henry comes to the rescue in the nick of time driving his car.  
 
Now, I MIGHT just be nitpicking my way through an otherwise excellent issue here, but this is the sort of sloppy plot moment  that captures my attention and won't let go.  The good thing is that if this is the only thing to complain about in the whole chapter, it's fair to say that it's not really that big a deal.
 
 
Overall, despite a glaring plot hole, this action-heavy chapter of the story of Pearl Jones is highly entertaining. It features a surprising twist, some good emotional story moments, and outstanding art by Rafael Albuquerque as strong elements that overshadow the minimal flaws and perfectly set up the final part of this first American Vampire story arc.
 
ONE DROP OF BLOOD
SCRIPTS: Stephen King
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Retired Pinkerton Agent James Book, along with his former deputy, Felix Camillo (as well as Felix's daughter Abilena and writer Will Bunting) arrive at the devastated town of Lakeview.  Bunting gives the group some background on what he knows about vampires before they head for the old mine where Skinner Sweet waits for them.
 
The European Vampires and their human agents, Sweet's former gang members, lie in wait at the mine, watching for Book and company or any sign of Skinner Sweet.  Inside the mine, Sweet finds himself growing weaker as the moonless night falls.
 
When Book and his group arrive, they take Skinner's former gang by surprise and quickly dispatch them while the European vampires stand by unseen and allow their human agents to be taken down.  Sweet hears the commotion outside and calls out to Book and Camillo.  Felix goes into a rage when he hears the voice of his father's killer and rushes inside by himself.
 
Inside the mine, Felix falls into Sweet's trap and is quickly killed by the weakened vampire.  James Book runs into the mine to support his friend, but is surprised when Felix's daughter (and Book's Daughter) passionately kisses him before he goes in.  Distracted by the forbidden moment between himself and Abilena, he goes into the mine a few moments too late and discovers Felix's dead body.
 
Sweet attempts to ambush Book as well, but doesn't succeed.  After putting a few shots into him, Book quickly discovers that Skinner is able to shrug off gunfire.  Sweet takes advantage of the surprise and gets the upper hand on Book, knocking him unconscious with a rock. 
 
Skinner decides that forcing Book to become the same kind of creature he's become will be a more painful fate than just killing him, so Sweet drips some of his blood into Book's eye.  Abilena hears the gunfire and rushes into the mine, shooting at Sweet, but hitting some of the mine supports instead.
 
 
As the mine collapses, Book, Abilena, and Will Bunting barely escape. . .leaving Skinner Sweet buried and assumed dead.  The watching European Vampires leave, also convinced that they'll never hear from Skinner Sweet again.  Of course, this is a vampire story, so we see that Skinner is once again imprisoned alive in the wreckage of the mine.
 
When it's all over,  Book, Abilena, and Bunting ride into the sunrise, seemingly at the end of their adventures with the vampire Skinner Sweet.  But the narrator once again assures us that this isn't the end of the story.
 
To be continued. . .
 
The conclusion of this story is an action-packed, cinematic comic book gem!  Stephen King pulls out all the stops and gives readers an ending that stands up right beside any of his best short stories.
 
Wait.  What's that?  I said "To be continued"?
 
Yes, yes. . .there's still another issue to go, but it's more of an epilogue that perfectly sets Scott Snyder up for the entire rest of the series (I'm only reviewing the first 5 issues here.  There's 34 total issues, plus a couple of spinoff mini's).  
 
THIS is the actual ending to this story and the answer to the question I was previously pondering about the unusual 5 issue arc.  It's actually a 4 issue arc with a somewhat separate 5th issue to set up the rest of the series. 
 
If I can find anything wrong with this finale, it would be that the European Vampires are just sort of. . .there.  They don't do anything but watch and then leave when the mine collapses.  Sure, they're only supporting characters but King makes them interesting enough that I'd have liked to see a bit more of them (and we do in the next issue).    But once again. . .if that one little thing is all I can find wrong with this, then it's just me nitpicking at an otherwise excellent story.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

ISSUE FIVE

 
CURTAIN CALL
SCRIPTS: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Having decided that running and hiding will only delay the European Vampires' hunt for Pearl, she and her new lover, Henry, attack B.D. Bloch's Hollywood mansion during the day when he and his fellow vampires are at their weakest.
 
After a desperate and battle where the rest of the vampires are taken by surprise and destroyed, Henry is taken hostage by Bloch, but Pearl finally defeats the head vampire by breaking a window and letting him burn in the sunlight.  With the battle over, Henry is ready to leave California with Pearl, but she has one last thing to do first. . .
 
At the movie studio where the former friends played bit parts while looking for their big break, Pearl confronts Hattie, who is now a rising movie star thanks to her servitude to producer/vampire B.D. Bloch.  Hattie surprises Pearl by transforming into the new American breed of vampire.  She used Pearl's blood off the knife she attacked her with during her betrayal at the Hollywood sign in last issue and infected herself.
 
 
Unfortunately Hattie is no match for Pearl, who quickly kills her former best friend. . .finally ending Pearl's short and brutal quest for revenge.
 
EPILOGUE:  Later, on a pier at the beach, Pearl and Henry enjoy a bit of peace at the end of the madness they've experienced and discuss where they will be going next when they leave California.  When Henry leaves for a moment, Pearl realizes that Skinner Sweet has been watching them. 
 
He tells her that he WAS going to kill her there on the pier, but decided not to, since she did such a good job doing his dirty work for him.  Sweet tells Pearl she'll see him again someday, then leaves her to her new life with Henry.
 
 
The End.
 
Snyder delivers a great ending to the strange tale of Pearl Jones, American Vampire!  Of course, this isn't the last we'll see of Pearl and Henry in this series, but for now the story comes to a very satisfying conclusion with equal parts action and quiet character moments.  If this was all there was to American Vampire, I think I'd be happy with it.  
 
But there's a bit more to go in this issue. . .
 
IF THY RIGHT HAND OFFEND THEE, CUT IT OFF
SCRIPTS: Stephen King
PENCILS: Rafael Albuquerque
 
Like I said in the review of issue #4, this issue's story is really more of an Epilogue to the story of Skinner Sweet and James Book that also serves as a prologue to the remaining 29 issues of American Vampire.
 
We pick up the tale in New Mexico 3 years after James Book's final battle with Skinner Sweet (the year is 1912) with the former lawman living with the daughter of his slain deputy.  Book is NOT in a good place.  Skinner Sweet's final cruel act before his "death" has resulted in Book becoming a vampire.  
 
But James Book has a strong will and has tried to resist the blood hunger by feeding on animals and subjecting himself to various quack doctors trying experimental blood transfusion therapies. . .all of them unsuccessful. 
 
Feeling control slipping away from him and fearing he will start killing innocent people, Book desperately enlists the aid of Abilena to commit suicide during the moonless night when he is most vulnerable.  
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
We see that the European Vampires have taken more of a hold on the American West.  They use human agents to dig Skinner Sweet out of the rubble of the collapsed mine where he's been trapped for 3 years and offer him a chance to join them and share in the vast profits gained from the growing nation.  Sweet is concerned less with profits and more with revenge and savagely destroys the European Vampires before leaving to live his own life.
 
AND THEN BACK TO NEW MEXICO. . .
 
Where Abilena sadly agrees to help James Book end his tortured life as a vampire on one condition: that they spend one night together so that she can have a baby to remember him by.  Since Abilena is Book's Goddaughter and he's known her since she was born, Book is understandably reluctant, but Abilena insists and he finally agrees.  Afterwards, she keeps her part of the bargain and ends the life of James Book (and his part in the story of American Vampire).
 
 
A year later, Abilena sets out for parts unknown with the baby daughter that came from that night.
 
EPILOGUE:  The story moves forward in time to 1925, where an aged Will Bunting is holding a discussion of the best-selling book he wrote about the life and strange death of Skinner Sweet, "Bad Blood".  During the book signing at the end of his talk, he is given a note signed by Sweet saying that he's still alive and enjoying watching Bunting grow old.
 
As Sweet leaves the book store, he doesn't realize that he's being watched by Abilena and her (now) 12 year old daughter, Felicia.  Abilena tells Felicia that now's not the time for their revenge on Sweet, but soon. . .
 
 
 
The End.
 
Even though Stephen King actually ended his story in issue #4, in this issue he provides Scott Snyder a perfect prologue for the continuing tale of American Vampire as an ongoing comic series.  
 
Felicia Book is one of the main characters in the following "Devil in the sand" story arc, as well as the two American Vampire mini's, "Survival of the fittest" and " Lord of Nightmares".  I haven't read the short, 11 issue followup series "American Vampire: Second Cycle", but she's also part of that as well.
 
There's not much action here, except for the short interlude with Skinner Sweet killing the European Vampires as thanks for digging him out of the mine he was trapped in, but this is a solid issue with some great character moments. . .especially in the sad fate of James Book.
 
Overall, King couldn't have handed Snyder a better going away present than this Epilogue.

CONCLUSION

I've already said a lot of good things about American Vampire in this review, so there's not much more that I can say in this conclusion, so let's just take it on down to the bottom line:
 
If you are a fan of horror comics, vampires, Stephen King, Scott Snyder or any combination of those things, then American Vampire is a MUST read.  You will not be disappointed.
 
These first five issues tell two entertaining stories written in a fast-paced and highly-cinematic style backed up by some of Rafael Albuquerque's best artwork.  This is a fantastic introduction to a comic series that presents a fresh take on the tried and true vampire mythos.
 
Is this story perfect?  No comic is perfect.  There are times when the story is moving TOO fast.  There's a couple of plot holes that stand out.  There are some parts that are propped up on unlikely coincidence. There are some underused supporting characters.  Despite those few flaws, the first five issues of American Vampire stand on their own as a little nugget of comic book gold.  
 
It's a shame that this series came out during Vertigo's slow fade from comic stores because it really deserves to be better known than it seems to be.  In my extremely humble opinion, the cinematic nature of these two stories make it a perfect fit for television.  This story could be and SHOULD be AMC's next great horror series.
 
Once again, if you are a fan of horror comics and have never read American Vampire, do yourself a favor and find it NOW.  But don't stop at these first five issues.  I just stopped at the first arc so I can do a few other Halloween-Related Longbox Junk things.  These issues tell the tightest story and pretty much stand alone, but the entire series is well worth looking for.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's October, and that means it's time for some Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Work has slowed back down to a tolerable comic readin' and reviewin' pace, so I'm going to be tossing out as many Halloween and Horror-related Longbox Junk entries as I can over the next month.
 
Be there or be square!

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