Archive for Richard Corben

The Rats in the Walls

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Rat God #1

Oooooh, what’s this? New horror from Richard Corben? Yes indeedy doo, I will have all of that.

It’s an amazingly twisty story, too, starting with a pair of American Indians in the Pacific Northwest on the run from either the Tlingit tribe (which is a tribe that actually exists) or the Cthanhluk (which is a lot more eldritch and fictional). One of them is killed by the Cthanhluk, but the other manages to escape — only to make a very brief appearance on the East Coast in the 1920s. From there, we meet up with Clark Elwood who picks up a hitchhiker named Chuk — who seems to be the Indian who was killed in the distant past. Clark Elwood is a colossal racist who claims to be a pure Aryan, despite the fact that he’s almost as dark-skinned as Chuk is. In fact, Clark is in love with Chuk’s sister Kito, who he believes is white. Clark’s insulting ways lead to him getting beat up and thrown out of his own car — just as a snowstorm starts. And around the time, Clark runs face-first into a corpse stuffed into a column of snow, he gets attacked by a panther. What’s a bookish New Englander to do?

Verdict: Thumbs up. We get Corben’s amazing horror artwork wrapped around a bizarrely Lovecraftian tale of rats and time travel. We don’t know a lot about where the story is going to go from here, but what we get in this issue is a ton of creepy unease. Looking forward to more of this.

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Wytches #4

Sailor Rooks’ disappearance continues to fuel turmoil. Her father finds a word (“Here”) written on his stomach which he thinks is giving him a secret message to travel to the nearby Here Coast, where a hurricane wrecked a theme park they used to go to. While he remembers his former problems with alcoholism, when he nagged Sailor into climbing a broken Ferris wheel with him, he travels to the remnants of the park and meets the old woman who attacked him in their home. She reveals that the Wytches aren’t even human, and that they have the ability to control minds — in fact, they’ve exposed her to a substance that’s inducing her to commit suicide. She tells him there’s no one he can trust, and his daughter is probably already dead. But where is Sailor? She’s trying to escape the Wytches, who have their own special tricks for ruining the Rooks’ family.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Intensely creepy stuff. Not just Sailor trying to crawl out of a pit in the ground after waking up on a pile of children’s clothing. Not just her dad demanding she climb up an old Ferris wheel for no reason. Not just an old woman killing herself while rattling on about monsters and mind control and getting her legs eaten when she was seven years old. Pretty much every page is creepy and weird — and the last page is one unholy shocker.

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The Spooky Stuff

It’s Friday the 13th, and that seems like a great time to review some horror comics.

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Morella and The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Another of superstar horror illustrator Richard Corben’s adaptations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe — this time, we get the mystical reincarnation shocker “Morella” and the groundbreaking mystery “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Y’all know I love Corben, right? It’s always a good thing to read the work of a true master of horror art.

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Coffin Hill #8

The bulk of this issue is a flashback to Eve Coffin’s career as a cop — as a rookie, she was assigned to a police task force to track down the notorious Ice Fisher serial killer. She deduces fairly quickly that the killer is a secret witch who is murdering women as sacrifices. The two detectives on the task force aren’t entirely sure what to think of her — the one doesn’t believe in the supernatural; the other thinks her help could get him into the FBI. And Internal Affairs suspects something about her from the very start.

Verdict: Ehh, I dunno. It’s a very nice police procedural — in fact, it’s so good, there’s just no reason to go shoehorning a bunch of supernatural stuff into the story.

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Manifest Destiny #7

The Lewis and Clark expedition seems to be going well. The crew are getting adjusted well to their mission, the townspeople rescued from the fort are getting acquainted with the crew, and Sacagawea is capturing giant beetles for dissection. But rough times are just below the surface — one of the new recruits from the fort has figured out the expedition has a secret agenda, and Clark would prefer to respond to her discovery by having her murdered. And when the ship runs aground on a gigantic underwater arch, just like the one near the fort, it means much worse troubles are coming soon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. More exploration, more bizarre discoveries, more of the worst of human nature, all wrapped up in the cockeyed optimism of long-past history.

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The Returning #4

Hordes of changers are after Beth Turner. They go after her rescuer, they go after her last friend and his family, and they plan to kill her and turn the whole world over to the demons inhabiting their bodies. Can Beth survive?

Verdict: Thumbs down. It just never turned out to be particularly interesting — and definitely not very scary. Too bad.

Today’s Cool Links:

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You Were Made to Be Ruled

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Loki: Agent of Asgard #3

Teen Loki doesn’t really appear in this issue — what we’re treated to is a tale of the ancient past of Old Supervillain Loki. After Old Supervillain Loki walks out of his secret Asgardian prison, he travels in time to meet a young Odin. After befriending him, Loki kills a giant otter — and Odin only learns later that the otter was actually an innkeeper’s son who was able to change his shape. Loki agrees to get the innkeeper and his other sons a vast amount of gold to pay them back — and he gets that by finding a giant gar guarding a hoard of gold and blowing it up with a bazooka. But one of the innkeeper’s sons steals the gold and becomes Fafnir the dragon — and then is slain by Sigurd. What does this all have to do with Loki’s byzantine plans?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fun story of Loki’s treachery — and it’s got the mad, anarchic, drawn-out lunacy you expect to see in old Norse legends. Nevertheless, I do wish we could focus on Teen Loki, instead of taking a detour to a villain spotlight only three issues in…

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The Premature Burial

Oh, hey, you got a new comic by horror illustrator genius Richard Corben? Working on more Edgar Allan Poe adaptations? Well, do we know anyone around here who’d be interested in that?

What’ve we got here? Basically adaptations of Poe’s “The Premature Burial” and “A Cask of Amontillado.” Fairly straightforward, I think.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m a sucker for Corben — I love almost everything he does. I did have a bit of a stutter at “Amontillado,” which is, far and away, my favorite of Poe’s stories — and therefore, it didn’t quite live up to my mental image of EAP’s tale of cruel, cold-blooded revenge. Still, it’s hard to hold that against Corben — both stories are very, very good, and I reckon I shouldn’t blame him for not being able to read my mind.

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Revival #19

Lots of little things going on — Lester Majak’s beloved dog has died and been possessed by a ghost, which then tries to possess Lester. The local rotten wingnut terrorist wannabe is antagonizing the sheriff while his minions get up to something shady undercover. Officer Dana Cypress tries to convince Ibrahaim to help her investigate Em’s murder. The mayor is up to something — he’s got his wife tied up in the bathtub, and he’s hiding something more serious from the Cypresses. And Em meets up with Skateboarding Jesus and the Easter Bunny — and at least one of them is a Reviver.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some really weird stuff going on, some really ominous stuff, and some really creepy stuff, too — probably ain’t nothin’ creepier than Lester’s dog and his glowing eyes.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Here’s a really interesting long read about how one arrogant media schmuck single-handedly wrecked what was going to be a big-name independent video game jam.
  • None of the big movie critics understood the Black Widow in Marvel’s movies — in fact, they never even tried to understand her.
  • Marine Todd is really lame when the wingnuts do it, but really awesome when everyone else does it.

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Stories in the Sand

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The Sandman: Overture #1

Neil Gaiman writing Sandman again? With J.H. Williams III on art? Is it any wonder this was something many comics readers were very interested in?

Basically, this is a Sandman prequel — the adventure that Dream was engaged in immediately before the first issue of Sandman in 1989. We get reacquainted with a few of the Sandman supporting cast as they would’ve appeared around 1913 — the Corinthian is looking for victims, Destiny and Death perceive dire omens for Morpheus’ future, Merv Pumpkinhead has had a fateful encounter with Sigmund Freud, and something strange is happening to Dream — something so strange it surprises even him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, I’m keeping the description deliberately vague. Half the fun of this is enjoying the surprises. But the story catches your interest from the beginning — a dreaming flower? Yes, please, more. — and the characters are true to how we remember them. Even the briefly-met new characters are cool in all the ways that Sandman characters should be.

Williams’ art is, as always, stunningly gorgeous, and his layouts are just so much fun. Quorian’s tale is told through branches, the Corinthian’s through teeth, Destiny’s through pages of his book, George Portcullis’ through a portcullis. And the stunning beauty of the gatefold plot twist — man, it’s something else. If you love the Sandman — and if you love comics, you really are required to love the Sandman — you definitely need to go read this book.

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The Raven and the Red Death

Very simply, retellings of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” through Richard Corben’s unique and beautiful visual and storytelling style.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I got excited about this as soon as I heard it was coming out, and I was not disappointed. I love Corben’s work, and it’s fantastic that we’re still able to see comics from him on a fairly regular basis.

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Itty Bitty Hellboy #3

The gang makes banana walnut pamcakes and then annoys Baba Yaga (who lives in a bucket). They want her to use her magic powers to make everything big. Banana walnut pamcakes, cupcakes, potato chips, shoes, lobsters, you name it. Baba gets sick of it all and sends them all… TO HELL. Everyone really seems to enjoy it, and all the demons are convinced that Hellboy is going to use his big stone hand to destroy the world. Can banana walnut pamcakes save the world from fiery destruction? Meanwhile, Baba and Hecate both fall in love with Roger, so Baba clones him, so both of the girls can get some sweet, sweet homunculus lovin’.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Seriously, I think by now y’all should know how much I love this stuff, right? Baba and her bucket are hilarious, as are Liz and her love of hellfire, the giant pancakes, and the never-unfunny running gag about Roger’s underwear.

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House of Hellboy

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead

This came out last year, and somehow I missed it entirely ’til just a couple months ago. It’s yet another installment in the always-enjoyable collaborations between writer and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and horror-art legend Richard Corben. Even better, it’s a direct sequel to their glorious “Hellboy in Mexico” one-shot from a couple of years back.

Let’s look at some of the backstory here: in the 1950s, Hellboy spent time in Mexico, drinking and fighting vampires with three brothers who were luchadores — masked Mexican wrestlers. But one of the brothers was turned into a vampire, and Hellboy was forced to destroy him in a wrestling bout in an ancient Aztec temple surrounded by zombies — and the guilt sent him into the bottle for several years. This is a story from that era of Hellboy’s history.

So Hellboy is now supporting himself and his drinking habit by wrestling as a luchadore himself. He’s visited by a man who offers him the chance to wrestle his employer’s champion — and if Hellboy refuses, he’ll kill an innocent girl. And Hellboy soon finds himself dealing with a genuine mad scientist, his genuine crazed hunchbacked assistant, and a genuine Frankenstein monster — who Hellboy must defeat to save the girl. And even if he can stop the monster — which isn’t guaranteed — he’ll also have to deal with a werewolf, vampires, and demons before the night is through.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent story, action-packed, funny, melancholy, and crammed to the gills with everything you’d want in a Halloween comic. Mignola claims to have never watched any of the classic Mexican luchadore-vs.-monster movies, but what he’s created here is at least as good — you’ve got spooky stuff from all the monsters and ghosts, but you’ve also got a massive dose of atmosphere by setting it back in 1950s Mexico — earthy, poverty-stricken, traditional, and largely focused on luchadores.

Corben’s art is, as always, phenomenal — beautiful as the innocent Sonia, depraved as the mad Tupo, gruesome as the stitched-together brute, menacing as the revitalized vampire and his brides — he even manages pure simple blandness in the dimly obedient Raul. It’s at turns gorgeous and brutal, and you couldn’t look away if you wanted to.

It’s a grand comic, perfect for Halloween or any time you need awesome monsters and luchadores to get through your day. It’s definitely worth picking up — go bug your local shop for it.

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The Big Red One

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Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1

Okay, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” opens in theaters today, so let’s review a new “Hellboy” comic to get in the mood. This story is set back in 1958, with Hellboy going on walkabout in the Appalachian Mountains. He meets up with a guy named Tom Ferrell, who sold his soul to the devil but then chickened out on the deal and took off. Now he’s come back, and he and Hellboy head out to lay the smackdown on the witches, demons, and devil worshippers plaguing the area.

Verdict: Thumbs up. First of all, it’s written by Mike Mignola, who is absolutely aces on pulp horror. And it’s illustrated by Richard Corben, who, as I’ve mentioned recently, is an awesomely slam-bang horror artist. And this story is chock-full of cool horror imagery, from the emptied witch-skin to the defaced Bible to the near-skeletal horse to the evil Crooked Man himself. The only less-than-awesome thing is that Hellboy himself doesn’t have much to do here — he’s mostly asking questions and listening while Tom Ferrell tells him what’s going on. But I trust it won’t be long before he’s hitting demons with that big stone fist…

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House of Mystery #3

Well, I don’t have any other new Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comics to review right now, so let’s keep things in the same dark-fantasy genre. Fig, the House’s new permanent resident, tries in vain to escape over the wall that surrounds the property, but it’s no use — she’s one of the five people who can never leave the property unless invited by the ominous coachman who sometimes visits the House. Meanwhile, in the spotlight story, a low-level gangster spins a yarn about a very close shave against some tough mobsters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The spotlight story is a bit dull, and not at all horror, but the rest of the book is suitably spooky, especially the segment at the end with the coachman and Rina, the last person to be allowed to leave the House. And I gotta say, I’m really digging these covers by Sam Weber — so far, they’ve all been beautiful masterpieces of creepiness, and I entirely approve.

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Horror, Old and New

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H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horror #1

Wait, wait. Richard Corben, one of the most legendary and outright coolest illustrators in decades, adapting the stories and poems of horror super-legend H.P. Lovecraft? Sign me up.

We get three adaptations in this issue — Lovecraft’s story “Dagon,” which is a pretty straight adaptation, and two poems, “Recognition” and “A Memory,” both taken from “Fungi from Yuggoth.” The poems are both interpreted a great deal more broadly to give them an actual plot. And on top of that, you also get the original text versions as written by Lovecraft.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great illustrations, the stories rock, and you get the full text of the adapted works? That’s a complete shoggoth-load of awesomeness, all for just four bucks. If you love horror comics, go pick this one up now.

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The Evil Dead #4

The final issue of this adaptation of Sam Raimi’s modern classic horror flick sees Ash making his final stand against the demonic forces possessing his dead friends and the cabin itself. We get a little violence, a little gore (okay, okay, a LOT of gore), a little bravado from Ash, and a very nice re-creation of the film’s mood while the house tries to drive Ash crazy. But is the horror over, or is it just beginning…?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The entire story was a pretty straightforward, no-nonsense copy of the original movie, sure, but John Bolton’s painting in this series has been completely phenomenal. Lush, perfect, gruesome, you name it — all by itself, it’s been entirely worth the price of the comics.

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