Title: Haunted Halloween Hootenanny
Writers: Clay & Susan Griffith
Art: Nathan MacDicken
Publisher: New England Comics
Let’s close out October here at the Back Issue Bin with one look into the relatively far past of comic books, with the Tick’s first-ever Halloween special from back in 1999. In “Haunted Halloween Hootenanny,” the Tick gets it into his head that he and Arthur need to buy a new house to serve as their headquarters. As they head to an “open house” in the middle of nowhere, Arthur begins to notice that some of the other denizens of the house don’t seem to be all among the living.
Although I didn’t really get into the Tick until the cartoon series, in more recent years I’ve become a devoted fan of the character. His total obliviousness to the world around him is not only funny in its own right, but the perfect send-up of some superhero comics that just can’t seem to have fun with the sillier aspects of the genre. Arthur works nicely, as always, as a counterpoint to the Tick’s lunacy and as a stand-in for the reader, who more than likely is aware of just how ridiculous the situations we’re presented with in these comics usually are.
The Halloween aspects of this issue are classic – lots of Haunted House tropes – and perfectly suited to the Tick. Stories like this one prove that these characters aren’t just good for satirizing superheroes, but actually work very well as commentators on any sort of speculative fiction. This works just as well as a horror movie satire as it does of superhero comics, and the writers even manage to work in a dash of Edgar Allen Poe. Arthur, for a change, is the focus of the villain’s ire in this story, giving the comic a nice little twist on the usual Tick formula as well.
Happy Halloween from the Back Issue Bin, folks! Hope you’ve enjoyed the recent avalanche of creepy comics, and tomorrow, we’re back to business as usual – including a new Somebody’s First Comic Book. Be safe out there!
Halloween: The First Death of Laurie Strode #1 (Devil’s Due Publishing)
By Stefan Hutchinson, Jeff Zornow & Tim Seeley
The new Halloween miniseries is the sort of fill-in-the-blank story that we so often see in comic adaptations of film series. In Halloween: H20, we learn that Laurie Strode faked her death sometime after Halloween II. In the days after Michael Myers’ first killing spree (which you’ll recall actually took place through the first two movies), Laurie Strode buries her friends and tries to complete her senior year of high school while having a semi-normal life. But dreams plague her, visions of Michael terrify her, and an unexpected visit from Sam Loomis says that the rampage of Michael Myers may not be over yet. I’m not the biggest fan of H20, but Hutchinson has a perfect grasp of the characters in this franchise, and the story so far is a great continuation of the story, even bringing in minor characters from the first two films to take part in Laurie’s descent. This is working very well so far.
The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror #14 (Bongo Comics)
By Steve Niles, Glenn Fabry, Ian Boothby, Nina Matsumoto, Gilbert Hernandez
It’s the 14th annual issue of the Simpsons‘ venerable Halloween extravaganza, and this year is kind of a mixed back. Steve Niles and Glenn Fabry kick things off with “30 Days of D’Oh,” a parody of Niles‘s most famous creation. When Homer accidentally causes a nuclear meltdown that causes most of the town of Springfield to turn into flesh-eating monsters, the survivors try to hole up and survive. It’s not a bad parody at all, and it’s nice to see Niles is able to have fun with himself. Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto‘s “Murder He Wrote” is a parody of the Japanese Deathnote series. Bart finds a mysterious notebook that begins brutally killing anyone whose name is written in it. What will Springfield’s bad boy use it for? The story is funny enough, but Matsumoto‘s manga style doesn’t really lend itself well to Bart Simpson’s world. Finally, indie star Gilbert Hernandez brings us “Homerstein Conquers the World,” the epic tale of a giant monster that’s part man. It’s silly, it’s funny, it works. It’s not the best Treehouse ever, but it’s not bad either.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: A Shape in the Void
Rating: Mature Readers
Michael Myers returns for another night of terror!
Writer: Stefan Hutchinson
Art: Tim Seeley
Colors: Elizabeth John
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Stephen Christy
Publisher: Devil’s Due Productions
After a hiatus of a few years, Devil’s Due brings slasher legend Michael Myers back to comics with Halloween: Nightdance. Set a few years back (but still many years after the original film), the first issue of Nightdance focuses on a few different groups of young people: a girl who just moved to town and has dreams of dancing, a couple on a road trip, and a young woman who wakes up to find herself trapped in her worst nightmare.
This is a pretty good setup issue. There are some nice hints about one of the teens having some sort of prior connection to everything that’s happening, and the artwork by Tim Seeley (of Hack/Slash fame) is great. The only real problem is that the kids don’t quite stand out enough. Unless you’re playing the slasher genre for laughs (which this comic most certainly is not), the key to making the story work is to help the audience feel for or identify with the potential victims. So far, we don’t really know enough about any of them to really care about them. Fortunately, there’s time to remedy that.
Fans of Michael Myers should be pretty satisfied with this book. People who want their slashers a bit more serious will enjoy it too.
Quick Rating: Great
As Cassie is held in the clutches of a real “Death” metal band, there’s only one way Vlad can save her. Will he be man enough?
Writer: Tim Seeley
Art: Emily Stone
Colors: Courtney Via
Letters: Brian J. Crowley
Editor: Mike O’Sullivan
Cover Art: Tim Seeley
Publisher: Devil’s Due
Last issue, Cassie and every other virgin in the Six Sixx concert got zapped to another dimension straight out of Clive Barker’s nightmare, ready to serve up as sacrificial lambs for a demon that make rock stars. Vlad, tossed aside by the band, has to get there to save the day, but he’ll fall under their power if he does. There’s only one way to break free of the curse – ol’ Vlad has to be de-virginized.
Since the beginning of this series, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most about it is the way Tim Seeley casually drops in the clichés and conventions of the horror genre, and finds ways to twist it around. The virgin angle, of course, is a big deal in slasher flicks, and as dirty a girl as Cassie appears, the revelation that she’s been chaste actually works extremely well. It also opens up the doors for some discussion of the character this issue that feels rather natural, not forced, as the character questions her own sexuality. Seeley does this without feeling either gratuitous or preachy, which are the two biggest dangers of such an approach.
Vlad’s story, meanwhile, is simply funny. The poor man-mountain has only one shot to save his friend, but finding a way to lose his virginity seems to be a particularly monumental task. The various solutions presented here are really rather entertaining.
Emily Stone’s artwork has been really strong for this series, and as we go to this hellish other dimension, she continues to impress, providing us with nice, horrific landscapes and nasty creatures you wouldn’t want to run into in your dreams.
This book has hands-down become one of my favorites. It’s one of the most unique reads on the stands, and every horror fan should be lined up to read it.
House of Mystery #3 (DC Comics/Vertigo)
By Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Zachary Baldus & Sam Weber
As Fig continues to explore the House of Mystery, hoping to find a way out, she begins to understand that silly things like physics and geography don’t seem to apply here. She also discovers she’s not the only one looking to get away. Matthew Sturges is building a nice mystery around the characters trapped in this house, struggling to get free, hoping to get out. The question about what really lies beyond the house is intriguing, and Fig makes for a good viewpoint character. The story-within-a-story this issue shows us a mobster, captured by a rival, stripped, and bound. But since he’s telling the story, you’ve got to ask, how did he get there? The thing I really like about this concept is that the stories “inside” the framework are extremely varied. Although issue one gave us a horror story, issue two was more of a fairy tale, and this issue is something of a crime drama. It seems that almost any genre, any mood, and kind of story is eligible for inclusion in the House of Mystery. That’s an idea I really like. I’m curious to see where this is going to take us next.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Earth’s Mightiest Zero
Rating: Parental Advisory
Ashley Williams’s travels have dumped him onto the scariest world of all.
Writer: John Layman
Art: Fabiano Neves
Colors: June Chung
Letters: Randy Gentile
Consultant: Robert Kirkman
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Arthur Suydam
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Dynamite Entertainment
Following right on the heels of Dynamite Entertainment’s Army of Darkness #13, Ash Williams found himself facing a horde of Deadites, and losing his life… or did he? Instead of making his way to the afterlife, Ash finds himself spilling into an alternate universe full of bizarre heroes in colorful costumes… at least one of which is consumed by a hunger Ash recognizes all too well.
A few years ago, I would have laughed hysterically at the idea that either of these properties would even be any good, let alone hits, but here they are. And they actually blend together perfectly. Ash and the Marvel heroes are all perfectly in-character, which is a relief, since this is pretty much required reading for fans of his series. Marvel Zombies fans need only know that this is evidently a prequel to that miniseries, as most of the heroes are still pretty much human in this issue.
You’ll note I didn’t say they stayed that way.
Fabiano Neves’s artwork is also a good match for the book. He’s got a style that’s slightly more realistic than Sean Phillips’ work on the main title, and just realistic enough to make it clear that he’s doing a darn good interpretation of Bruce Campbell. If you’re boxing this comic with either of the two series in the crossover, they match just fine.
Is this comic anything exotic? Groundbreaking? Even special? Naw, not really. But when you’re buying a comic entitled Marvel Zombies Versus Army of Darkness, you’re not looking for any of those things – you’re just looking for a fun read. And this book most certainly succeeds on that level.