Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash #3 (DC Comics/Wildstorm/Dynamite Entertainment)
By Jeff Katz, James Kuhoric, Rick Burchett, Jason Craig & Eric Powell
Now here’s what we’ve been waiting for! Trapped in a dead car outside the old Voorhees house, Ash finds himself facing off with the machete-wielding slasher. As he does battle with Jason, he simultanouesly is plunged into a race with Freddy Krueger — they both want the Necronomicon, but Ash wants to get rid of it, while Freddy wants to use its arcane knowledge to restore himself to power. This is exactly what I was waiting for in this miniseries — a seamless blending of elements from all three film franchises and tons of bloody action. This miniseries started out slowly, but this issue really is everything fans have been waiting for. A strong story, strong art and a really nasty cliffhanger. I’m finally loving this book.
New Line Cinema’s Tales of Horror #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm)
By Peter Milligan, Tom Feister, Christos N. Gage, Stefano Raffaele, Darick Robertson
After the demise of the New Line horror titles as regular ongoing comics, I rather like the idea of putting them together in an anthology book like this one. I have no idea how many issues of this title are planned, but I think it’s something that could sustain where the ongoings couldn’t. The book opens with a quick Texas Chainsaw Massacre tale by Milligan and Feister. A traveling chainsaw salesmen peeks into a home that looks promising, only to find the inhabitants a harder sell than he expected. Not a bad story, if you can get past the somewhat bizarre premise of there being such a thing as a traveling chainsaw salesman. The Nightmare on Elm Street story, by Christos Gage and Stefano Raffaele, is considerably better. Freddy Krueger is dismayed to find another murderer in Springwood stealing his gimmick, and is even more upset when he finds out the copycat fancies himself a fan. It’s interesting to see a story where Freddy is placed in more of a defensive position, and where he has to use his brains as much as his ability to terrify. I enjoyed this little book, and I hope we get more from Wildstorm.
Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #2 (DC Comics/Wildstorm)
By Hans Rodinoff, Joel Gomez & Jonathan Wayshak
Hans Rodinoff takes a pretty big chance here. It’s always a bit scary when a comic book spin-off messes with the mythology if a movie, as this issue does, but somehow he makes it work. Turns out ol’ David didn’t die after all… well, not permanently… He and a new brood of vampires come after the Frog brothers to seek retribution for their defeat. An old friend shows up to join in the fight, and the quest for the new Head Vampire begins. Rodinoff‘s changes to the myth are actually pretty logical in terms of the movie, and they work pretty well in terms of this comic book, although I would imagine some more fanatical fans of the film may be upset by what’s done here. Fortunately, as only a passing fan, it doesn’t really bother me. Joel Gomez does a really good job with the vampires here — he’s got a good style for a horror comic, and his fights work quite well. His characters don’t really look much like the actors, but that’s preferable to having them look so photorealistic that the artwork suffers, as happens in many adaptations. Overall, it’s not a bad book.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Now Entering Conover County
Conover County is a typical American town – except for the monsters.
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Fiona Staples
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Scott Peterson
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
Conover County seems like any of a thousand other small-town American communities. Normal people, normal problems. Until a couple of youngsters get their hands on a decidedly nasty book that should have been kept off-limits to the town library. They recite an ancient incantation, and when the night falls, the terrors begin.
Aaron Williams is best known for his lighter fare, like Nodwick or the brilliant PS 238, so this horror story is something of a departure for him. In truth, the book reminds me a lot of Rising Stars or Heroes, except instead of a sudden inundation of superpowers, the people of the community instead find themselves transforming into monsters. Of course, the town isn’t entirely without protectors – some of the people who fall under the curse find some rather useful abilities as a result, and one girl in particular seems destined to stand against the darkness.
Williams manages to blend that sensibility with the small town life with a dash of Lovecraft for good measure. While he doesn’t abandon his sense of humor entirely, the comedy in this book is a great deal darker than what fans of his would be accustomed to. He’s really branching out with this book, and from a storytelling standpoint, it’s a real success.
Fiona Staples is a good choice for the artwork. Her characters have a good feel – they look different from one another, so it’s easily to quickly distinguish them visually. But she’s really good at the horrors, the monsters, and the nasties that come crawling out of the night once things go bad.
This is a really good first issue – plenty of fun, and a story that feels familiar without seeming like a pastiche of anything that’s already been done. This is one of the most original horror comics I’ve read in quite some time.
Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Don’t Start Me Talking
The comic books are alive!
Plot: Alan Moore
Script: Leah Moore & John Reppion
Pencils: Shane Oakley
Inks: George Freeman
Colors: Dave Gibbons
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Cover Art: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
The idea behind Albion is a sound one – old comic book characters coming to life in modern-day London as a pair of comic fans try to unravel the mystery, but the execution is falling somewhat short. Perhaps its because these old British superheroes are lost on an American audience or perhaps it’s just that the writers aren’t giving us what we need to feel for them, but I just can’t seem to connect with any of the characters.
Danny and Penny, after sharing a little exposition, come across a comic book that shouldn’t exist, as the entire run was pulped, and set out to chase its origin. In the meantime, we check in on Captain Hurricane, a World War II-era bruiser, to whom the years have not been kind.
There’s not really anything bad about this issue – the ideas are solid and there’s a nice segment where we check in on an old super-villain, but things don’t quite come together, really. You don’t feel any cohesiveness or immediacy. You just don’t get excited.
The artwork is by far a step up. Shane Oakley uses a looser, cartoonish style complimented by heavy shadows, making the whole thing reminiscent of Mike Avon Oeming’s work on Powers, but they manage to shift gears entirely when they step into Captain Hurricane’s past, giving the sequence a look to mimic old-fashioned comics, and it works well.
This is definitely a comic that looks better than it reads, and with three writers named in the credit box it’s not hard to assume that Alan Moore just farmed an idea out to others without really developing it enough. It’s pretty bland overall.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Faith, Hope and Charity
On the run, trying to escape his past, Holden Carver gets a new “assignment.”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Colors: Strachan With Sinclair
Letters: Jared Fletcher
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Cover Art: Sean Phillips
Publisher: DC/Wildstorm Universe
Okay, before I get into the meat of this review, allow me to voice a complaint about a practice I see way too often in comics. Why on Earth would anyone, rather than providing a proper credit box, simply run a list of names (just last names, mind you, not even first and last), not detailing who did what job and forcing anyone interested in such a thing to play detective? It’s not like a movie with big names where everyone recognizes everything. (Spielberg! Hanks! Zeta-Jones!) These people have worked damn hard to put out a good comic book – give them the full credit they deserve.
Okay, on to the actual book. While I was at a slight disadvantage, having only read the first issue of “Season One” and the prologue to this series that appeared in the Coup D’etat Afterword, this issue was very accessible, setting up the situation for even those with only a modicum of prior knowledge about the title.
Holden Carver has gone from being a deep undercover agent posing as a supervillain to an agent that feels betrayed by his agency and his former commander, John Lynch (whom Holden believes is still in a coma). When someone approaches him with an offer that will allow him to gain a measure of satisfaction, it’s clear that this “Season” of Sleeper will be quite different from the first.
This makes for a quite satisfying spy/espionage action/drama, and the story would probably work just as well without the superhero trappings, which is what holds me back from being the first book I’d recommend to someone looking for “superheroes with a twist.” It’s a solid book, don’t misunderstand, but for someone looking for a different take on superheroes I’d be more likely to recommend something like Powers, where it’s actually a new take on superheroics, as opposed to a book in another genre that happens to have superhero incidentals.
Sean Phillips is the perfect match for Brubaker’s story. He serves up good action and drama and the occasional appearance of the guy in spandex doesn’t look silly or jar you out of the story. (In fact, the look reminds me very much of Dark Horse’s The Escapist – Phillips would be a fine match for one of those short stories.)
So while I’m not exactly wild about this book, I did enjoy it and I think it does a fine job of setting up the new storyline. If you’ve been thinking about Sleeper and looking for a place to jump on board, this is the issue to do it.