Friday, October 31, 2014

REVIEW: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1

Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artwork: Robert Hack
Review: Will Dubbeld

It's that time of year again, ladies and gents. The air turns to chill, leaves change color and drop to loamy earth, and costumed urchins prowl the streets panhandling for treats.

It's the best time of the year for a stereotypical comic book/sci-fi/horror fanboy like yours truly. The time of the year when things go bump in the night and rap on your chamber door, when Jaime Lee Curtis runs like Hell from a Shatner-faced ghoul, and T-Bird, Tin-Tin and the boys set fire to Detroit.
Peter Cushing's Van Helsing smites Christopher Lee's Dracula with the holy hand of God and all those old Misfits records sound that much better.
Somewhere H.P. Lovecraft's shade nods approvingly.

I love it.

I'd love to say I spent the month of October rolling around in Pre-Code comic books, but alas even in reprinted form those things are a bit pricey. That said, I search instead for the next best thing.

Quick caveat: Rachel Rising is the best horror comic on the stands right now and the lot of you should be buying it. For purposes of this experiment we'll take RR out of the equation.

Yoe Books tossed us a few affordable Pre-Code reprints, but not enough to slake my thirst. At one point my LCS was kind enough to stock a dollar box with a good sized run of Tomb of Dracula and that was a godsend.
Finally, a decent amount of publishers (who will remain unnamed) print a decent amount of horror titles (that will remain unnamed) written by a decent amount of highly lauded creators (who will remain unnamed). Unfortunately many if not all of these wildly popular horror comics are sub-par. C minus books full of trite human drama, eye-rollingly bad twists, or straight up barrel-scraping torture porn.
Few, if any, current horror books channel that lightning-in-a-bottle magic of an old EC comic or a Hammer Studios gothic horror film.

So I figured, what the Hell, I'll check out this Archie Comics zombie apocalypse book.

Impressed with that little endeavor, my brow raised with inquisitive scrutiny when I heard about a Sabrina comic in the same vein from Archie Comics.
I debated, hemmed and hawed, and finally opted out of pre-ordering the book.
Flash forward to Halloween Comicfest at my local brick and mortar shop and . . . well it is the season and it WAS Halloween Comicfest and there was only one copy left on the stand and alright fine give it to me.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 has a gimmick cover, a die-cut, nothing as 1990s cliched as a lenticular 3-D cover or, god forbid, a hologram, so it's a good gimmick on thicker, nearly cardstock paper. The interior pages feel almost a hybrid of slicks and newsprint and the book even smells unique, as if blended from a nontraditional paper recipe.

The art is fantastic, conjuring stylistic images reminiscent of 1970s horror comic magazines.
The full, magazine-sized books mind you, not the standard floppies.
Vampire Tales and its ilk.
The color palette is subdued, almost dull, with slashes of bright color here and there for a beautiful contrast on page and panel.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa opens the tale on October, 31st, 1951. Sabrina's first birthday.
It seems young Sabrina Spellman (I know, bear with me...) is the daughter of a Satan-summoning warlock who has promised his little girls upbringing to a witch coven.
Mrs. Spellman will be having none of these monkeyshines and she flees with baby Sabrina into the Dark Foreboding Woods.

Needless to say it doesn't end well for Mrs. Spellman...

After the brief intro, the book details several points in Sabrina's life and her burgeoning sorcerous abilities.
1957, 1962, and finally settling on 1964 as young Sabrina readies herself for high school, helped along by her cousin Ambrose and her 2 maiden aunts. We're introduced to her smart-mouthed cat familiar, Salem, a potential love interest, and by the end of the book we see a succubus summoned from Gehenna who appears to be a future antagonist for the teenage witch.

The book is great, not necessarily the elixir I need to fill the horror comic void, but a great book nevertheless. It's extremely atmospheric, a bit thick, stuffy like an episode of Dark Shadows.
The one with Jonathan Frid.
Not with Jack Sparrow...

There's more than a couple of Easter Eggs enclosed as well.
Ambrose mentions sending someone to "the cornfield" (canny Twilight Zone fans take note), his cobra familiars are scions of the Roman snake god Glycon (canny Alan Moore fans take note), and the two coed witches who summoned the succubus appear to be thinly veiled pastiches of Archie Comics own Betty and Veronica.

I'm on the fence as to whether I'll continue to pick this book up on the regular or not, but there's plenty of worse choices a reader could make. The script and art are solid thus far; it'll be up to the story arc's progression to pass final judgement on the book.
Curiosity has been piqued.

I'm off to convince Barbara Steele to read ghost stories for my bedtime. Until next time, kiddies, candy apples and razor blades...

Friday, October 17, 2014

REVIEW: Veil #1-5

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Toni Fejzula
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

It feels great to be back writing for the HCB after a long hiatus. Since my last contribution, I have since moved into the vast frontier that is mainland China. Telling you that I have stories for days would be the understatement of the century, but if I can offer a quick vignette: just picture me walking down a trash-strewn open air market, eating a fresh slice of cantaloupe on a stick, and to my left squatting on the pavement is a small child peeing into the street whilst hundreds of unaffected onlookers riding bicycles pass anonymously.

But let’s be honest, I know you’re not here to bask in any of the nonsense that has become my life; your Twitter hashtag has directed you to this site because you are wondering whether to purchase this freshly completed miniseries by writer Greg Rucka and artist Toni Fejzula.

Monday, October 13, 2014

REVIEW: Translucid #1 (of 6)

Writers/creators : Claudio Sanchez & Chondra Echert
Illustrator: Daniel Bayliss
Colors: Adam Metcalfe
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Review: Cody "Madman" Miller

My coffee table eats things. To be more specific I suppose it’s the dark void under the coffee table and not the table itself. The argument could also be made that the shadow the table casts is just an extension of the table itself . . .
Based on this final point I’d just like to go ahead and stick with my opening statement. My coffee table eats things.

Sometimes my coffee table regurgitates random things from time to time. That is the very circumstance in which we now find ourselves.
I found this book sandwiched between issue #3 and #4 of the David Hine Spider-Man Noir books that I had dug out of the amoeba with the intention of rereading an old favorite. Unfortunately my coffee table had other plans and into the void they went . . . until today.

I have no idea where this Translucid book came from. I don’t remember buying it. I don’t remember reading it, in fact I don’t think I've ever laid mortal eyes on this book before.
I’m fairly certain that, if I had, I’d remember, because the cover is so ugly it hurts my eye holes. It’s Gottawful. It’s like drinking Wild Turkey from a fire hose, up the nostril, and that’s the Gottdamn truth. Today my coffee table puked up ugly. It happens from time to time.
Well, there’s more to the story. I was so happy that the first page and all the pages thereafter were not a reflection of the aforementioned fail of a cover. The pain in my eyes subsided and morbid reckless curiosity consumed me, so I bought the ticket.
It didn’t take long and I was totally and hopelessly lost. First we see a kid drawing a prototype for some suit of armor or the like, then suddenly we’re thrown into the world of “Horse Guy”, a villain who thinks wearing a giant white horse head mask is a super-awesome badass thing for a villain to do, and The Navigator, our hero who apparently is either:

-Too lazy to do the hero thing anymore


-Just doesn’t Gottdamn care anymore

-With great power comes great responsibility

First, in as few words as possible:

The ass with the horse head tricks Navigator into thinking some other bad guys tied him up, rigged him to a bomb, and put him in the basement of the Empire State building. The hero goes to save his archenemy only for that bastard horses ass to sneak attack the hero with a quick jab to the neck with a syringe loaded with LSD.
Instantly I was blinded.
The damn comic turns into a black neon light wonderland of three eyed guys in horse head masks and other things you can only see while under the influence of mind altering substances or perhaps mid-coitus. It got neon . . . way, way neon.
Turn the page and we’re back to the little kid again. This time he’s just waking up from a nightmare, leading me to think that all this is going on inside the kids imagination or his dreams. Either way, unless issues #2-5 somehow find themselves into a dollar box I cross paths with, I doubt I’ll ever find out what transpired in the lives of The Navigator and the guy in the horse head mask.
Some things are better left within the dark void under my coffee table. Now the only thing left to do is lick page 19 and get on the Gottdamn day-glow bus headed to NYC.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

REVIEW: Nailbiter #6

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Mike Henderson
Colors: Adam Guzowski
Review: Art Bee

Earlier this year, Image started publishing a captivating series called Nailbiter. The title struck me as completely laughable, but the cover art was so sinister (pictured below). Since starting the series, it has become one of my most anticipated comics on my pull list.

Why did Friday the 13th, Halloween, Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and Saw do so well? They all involved highly motivated serial killers. Why do these types of characters and story lines appeal to the masses? It can be summed up in one simple word.

A serial killer is quite simply the top of apex predators. An apex predator is a creature that has no natural predators and exists at the top of its food chain. For the most part serial killers do not eat their victims but do hunt, stalk, and consume them. The consumption gained is the result of the drive to murder. This can be in the form of sex, thrill, control, or any other form of gratification.

In the world of fiction, serial killers are a great, recyclable machine for terror. They are also a great platform to build awesome heroes and protagonists out of mediocre ones. That brings us to Nailbiter.

When the story started, FBI agent Eliot Carroll disappeared after figuring out that 16 of the country’s worst serial killers, including Edward “Nailbiter” Warren, were from one single town, Buckaroo, Oregon. Agent Carroll’s disappearance causes his friend Nicholas Finch from the NSA to come and figure out what happened with the local Sheriff Shannon Crane. Ironically they have to enlist Warren to help find Carroll. Since that first issue the story has been a roller coaster ride of a thriller.

In Nailbiter #6, the story switches gears into its next arc. By the sound of this issue we are going to get a taste of Buckaroo’s culture. At the beginning of the issue Alice (I think she is the niece of the Sheriff, but I am too lazy at the moment to go pull the last issue) is sitting in a diner when a new character comes onto the scene, Mallory. Mallory is a serial killer fanatic and wants her baby which is about to crown to be born in Buckaroo. She thinks, if the child is born in this town, the child will be a serial killer and make her famous. I absolutely will not share any more than that about this issue. You've got to admit that is just a creepy and weird way to start the issue and have to find out more, right?

Williamson has done a superb job at creating this story. He is continually building suspense while delivering gore and violence in a meaningful way. Gore has never bothered me unless it is pointless. There is nothing worse than gore that is overly done. Williamson uses developed characters, a dynamic setting, and a solid plot to build an absolutely sexy story.

Mike Henderson and Adam Guzowski combine their talents blast this story at us. Their work is good but not great. What I like about their work is how they use color and deliberate lines to project certain scenes right at you. For instance in the current issue on page 8, they deliver a doctor screaming as a large syringe needle is thrust through one cheek, the tongue, and out the other cheek. The image really pops out as you turn the page. The placement and delivery is absolutely brilliant. In my opinion, even though their skill is less than that of other artists, Henderson and Guzowski know how to use what they have and make it worth more than it is.

Check the series out. It is worth it. The trade collecting the first five issues will be out soon, and issue seven is promising a special guest. That special guest is Brian Michael Bendis. Hell, if Bendis is stepping over to have his name in it, it has to be worth something.