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Haunted Mansion #7

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

November 12, 2007

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Laugh? I Thought I’d Die! And other stories

A comedian comes to Gracey Manor, and the secret of Ghost #1000 is explored.

Writers: Jon Hastings, Chris Reilly, Steve Ahlquist & Dan Vado
Art: Jon Morris, Stephanie Freese, Chris Grine, Drew Rausch
Letters: Eleanor Lawson
Editor: Jennifer de Guzman
Cover Art: Drew Rausch
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

Slave Labor’s wonderful Haunted Mansion anthology returns this month with four new stories, including the beginning of a new serial. “Laugh? I Thought I’d Die” by Jon Hastings and Jon Morris is first. In this mostly wordless story, a jokester named Ezra Gasser passes away, only to find he brings an unexpected quality to the Happy Haunts of Gracey Manor. Chris Reilly, Steve Ahlquist and Stephanie Freese follow with “On a Tight Rope,” which gives the backstory behind the famous “Stretching Room” painting of the girl on the tightrope dangling precarious inches above a pack of starving crocodiles. This is a really clever story, taking the girl – a seeming victim here – and turning the story on its ear.

In “3 of a Kind” by Reilly, Ahlquist and Chris Grine, we again see the backstory of a stretching room portrait, the three men slowly sinking into quicksand. The trio of compulsive gamblers follow their vice into the depths, and like many of the ghosts of Gracey, may not even realize when their time has come.

Finally there’s the gem of the collection, “The Misery of the Manse Part I,” which picks up on a storyline that concluded last issue. Gracey Manor has long been the home of 999 spirited spooks. The question has always lingered, however, what would happen if a 1,000th ghost moved in? The question, as answered by Dan Vado and Drew Rausch, is that the mansion itself would be swallowed up by the Earth, hurtled along on a mysterious journey. As the ghosts inside the mansion try to figure out what’s happening to them (a story that cleverly plays on the history of the Manor story Vado wrote in previous issues), the living people who saw it swallowed up investigate the same mystery, and one of them goes much further than you’d expect.

This is a very strong issue, particularly the final story, and fans of the Haunted Mansion will have plenty to make them come back for the next installement.

Rating: 8/10

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Tron #2

June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

December 9, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good

Back in the computer world, Jet finds himself in the heat of battle!

Writers: Landry Walker & Eric Jones
Art: Louie DeMartinis
Letters: Eleanor Lawson
Editor: Dan Vado
Cover Art: Louie DeMartinis
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

Framed for the murder of his father, Jet Bradley dives back into the digital world to escape the police. When he gets there, though, his memories are scrambled, and he finds himself again part of the war between the increasingly-insidious Master Control Program and the free programs of cyberspace.

The gap between issues of this title has really been damaging to it, but I do recall enough of issue one to know that I liked issue two better. Part of that is the art style. I think Louie DeMartinis has managed to refine his product since issue one, making it a bit cleaner and better. It also doesn’t hurt that very, very little of this issue takes place in the “real” world (one of the big problems with issue one was that there wasn’t enough of a distinction between the real world and the digital world), and DeMartinis’ style is far better suited for the digital realm.

The story is progressing nicely as well. It’s been over 20 years since the events of the original Tron movie, and the computer landscape has transformed dramatically. Walker and Jones have done a great job of addressing those changes while still keeping the flavor and excitement of the original movie. The end of this issue throws us a great curveball – I’m really not sure where its going, but I’m excited to find out.

This title has improved quite a bit from issue one. If it keeps going in this direction, it should be a solid title and another check mark in the “win” column for the Slave Labor/Disney collaboration. The only real question is how long we’ll have to wait for issue three.

Rating: 8/10

Gargoyles (2006 Series) #6

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

October 25, 2007

Gargoyles #6 (Slave Labor Graphics)
By Greg Weisman, Gordon Purcell & Dustin Evans

This is one of those comics that would probably be really good if there only weren’t such a huge gap between issues. Now to be fair, unlike other comics the delays in Gargoyles aren’t creative, but legal (i.e. jumping through hoops with the Disney licensing people), but no matter the reason, it weakens the comic. This issue marks the halfway point of the first story arc, “Clan-Building,” and herein, Goliath encounters someone very unexpected. The memory gap from last issue aside, the fight scene here is engaging and moving, and I find myself loving these characters just as much as I did when their show was on the air back in the day. It’s a strong book worthy of a better schedule. I just hope that the wrinkles are smoothed out, because with the new bimonthly Gargoyles: Bad Guys series scheduled to launch soon, it would be wonderful to get a monthly helping of Gargoyles.

Rating: 7/10

Haunted Mansion #6

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

June 29, 2007

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Doom of the Diva and other stories

An opera singer prepares her greatest performance.

Writers: Alice Price, Andy Price, Dan Vado
Art: Andy Price, Mike Voss, Drew Rausch
Letters: David Hedgecock
Cover Art: Drew Rausch
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

This issue is a fine demonstration of the diversity of this title – you’ve got a funny story, an exciting story and a downright scary story capping off the issue.

Alice and Andy Price begin the issue with “Doom of the Diva,” the tale of an opera superstar whose career is waning. She gets an opportunity for a groundbreaking performance at New Orleans’ beautiful Gracey Mansion, unaware that her audience was literally dying to get in. This is our funny story, even with the somewhat macabre ending you would expect from the Haunted Mansion. The final page in particular is packed with great sight gags – it’s almost like a “Where’s Waldo” page, where you’re scouring the details for the next joke.

Dan Vado and Mike Moss are up next with the final chapter of “Mystery of the Manse.” Master Gracey has hung himself and slain Madame Leota during her séance, but the determination of her spirit was so great that she continued the summoning of the spirits, even after her death. This is a nice capper to the origin of the Haunted Mansion, and Vado has managed to incorporate a great many elements from the ride. As this is one of the few Disney attractions that never really had a solid story attached to it, Vado has done a great job of finally giving it one.

“The Final Interview” closes off the issue, written by Vado with art by Drew Rausch. This continues the story of the girl who came to the mansion for a job, but who now feels compelled to come back. The Haunted Mansion is famous for its 999 happy haunts… haven’t you ever wondered what would happen if they finally accepted number 1000? The answer: a heck of a cliffhanger.

This is a really eclectic mix of stories – there’s really something for everyone in this issue, and it’s hands-down perfect for any fan of the Haunted Mansion.

Rating: 8/10

Haunted Mansion #5

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

November 25, 2006

Quick Rating: Good
Title: A Dynamite Party and other stories

New stories of the Happy Haunts of Gracey Manor

Writers: Devon Devereaux, Ben Towle, Dan Vado, Jon “Bean” Hastings
Art: Devon Devereaux, Ben Towle, Drew Rausch, Jon “Bean” Hastings, Mike Moss
Lettering Assists: Eleanor Lawson
Cover Art: Roman Dirge
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

Slave Labor Graphics’ dalliance in the worlds of Disney continues with five new short stories of varying quality. Overall, it’s a worthwhile package, but a couple of the stories leave something to be desired.

First up is “A Dynamite Party” by Devon Devereaux. This short four-pager is about someone who is invited to a party at Gracey Manor and insists on going without wearing pants just to spite his wife. There’s really nothing more to this story – the character is nonsensical, as is the plot, and the artwork is quite stilted. This is probably the single weakest story in the entire series as of yet.

Ben Towle’s “Blue Loup Garou” is next, and considerably better. A werewolf that lives on the grounds of Gracey Manor meets up with one of the Manor’s inhabitants – a mummy – and tells the story of how he came to be cursed to live on the Manor’s grounds, divorced both from the land of the living and the land of the dead. It’s nice to see that this book usually remembers the Haunted Mansion is ostensibly located somewhere in Louisiana and incorporate parts of the local folklore into the story, and although the Loup Garou and the werewolf (though related) aren’t exactly the same, Towle puts enough of a twist on the concept to make it his own.

Dan Vado and Drew Rausch serve up “The Follow-Up Interview,” a two-pager that serves as both epilogue to a previous story in this book and, apparently, as a prologue to a new one. In an earlier issue, we met a young woman named Sarah who was interviewing for a job as housekeeper at Gracey Manor, unaware that a car crash had left her on the verge of being a ghost herself. Now, pulled back in the land of the living, she related her experience to her boyfriend, and tells him of her intention to return to the Manor. It’s an okay story, but kind of short at two pages. As there’s clearly more to the story (it ends with the classic phrase “to be continued”), it may have been better simply to save these two pages until the next stage of the story is ready to begin.

“The Pickwick Capers” by Jon “Bear” Hastings is this issue’s most unique tale. Told in a delightfully cartoony style, Hastings relates the story of a jolly, good-natured thief who becomes one of the Mansion’s 999 Happy Haunts. Hastings utilizes the lore and features of the real-life amusement park attraction to tell his story, and that makes it a good bit of fun.

Finally is part five of “Mystery of the Manse” by Dan Vado and Mike Moss. Lord Gracey’s wedding day has arrived, and his bride-to-be is unaware of his blood-soaked history as a pirate. One woman who is aware of his past, though, is the fortune teller named Madame Leota, spurned by Lord Gracey, planning his revenge. For the most part, I’ve quite enjoyed this look into the origins of the Mansion and many of its signature characters. Lord Gracey’s story is a very dark one, quite different in tone from the other stories in this book, or from anything you would expect from a Disney comic, for that matter. But it’s good. Not quite as good is the artwork – Mike Moss’s Manga-flavored art style just doesn’t seem like a good fit for this story. I’ve got nothing against Manga in and of itself, it just doesn’t seem in place here, amongst the other stories, with this property.

Rating: 7/10

Little Gloomy’s Halloween Special #1

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

October 26, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Revenge of the Housefly and other stories

Three shorts starring Little Gloomy and friends!

Story and art: Landry Walker & Eric Jones
Cover Colors: Michael “Rusty” Drake
Production Assistance: Bob Simpkins
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

This dandy little special from 2000 gives us not one, but three oddities from the Little Gloomy library. Some of you may know her from her own stories and specials, some may have seen her adventures in Disney Adventures, but if you’re a newcomer to Gloomy’s world, in a nutshell, it’s the story of a bunch of kiddie monsters, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s the kind of comic for kids we need more of.

“Revenge of the Housefly” is the first story in this book, a story submitted to Disney Adventures but rejected in favor of two others. In this one, Gloomy’s adversary Simon (the lil’ mad scientist) conjures up a plan to spy on her. He concocts a potion to turn himself into a fly, but rather than having fun hanging out on the wall, he finds him self in one danger after another.

“The Lonely Horror” is the story of Gloomy’s strangest friend, Carl Cthulu. This is the story of how Carl – a descendent of the H.P. Lovecraft school of horror fiction – came to Gloomy’s home of Frightsylvania and made friends with the gang. Carl is an ancient evil destined to kill all of mankind and usher in the end of the world, but until then, he’s found a home. There were a few experiments with this story – Carl’s story, of course, but also telling the story in verse and a different art style. The linework is a little different and the shading is excellent. All of the experiments in this story worked.

Finally, this story prints the original Little Gloomy minicomic that birthed the character. This was the prototype story, not intended at the time to become a regular feature, so some of the characters aren’t quite in their final forms. Still, it’s a cute story and a nice introduction.

This comic really is a lot of fun, well worth the read this Halloween if you can find a copy to treat yourself with.

Rating: 8/10

Haunted Mansion #4

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

August 31, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Interview and other stories

A job interview in a house of the dead!

Writers: Dan Vado, Aaron A. & Roman Dirge
Art: Drew Rausch, Aaron A., Roman Dirge & Mike Moss
Cover Art: Roman Dirge
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics

Of the four Disney comics Slave Labor Graphics launched last year, only Haunted Mansion has made it past the first issue. This has easily made the quarterly anthology their most consistent title. The good news is, it’s also probably the best of the four (although Gargoyles is a close second). For those who came in late: Gracey Mansion in New Orleans is haunted. Really haunted. The mansion, at last count, played home to 999 different spooks, although there’s always room for more.

This anthology series, with a few stable creators and others popping in and out, tells tales both of the ghosts themselves and of visitors to the mansion over the centuries. The result is a unique collection of short stories that swerve between absurd comedies and genuine creepfests, sometimes in the case of a single story.

Dan Vado and Drew Rausch kick off the issue with “The Interview,” in which a young woman applies for a job as the new housekeeper at the Mansion, unaware of the state of its inhabitants. This is a great example of a story that shifts from comedy to chills – the girl’s initial reaction at the house is a pretty funny one. Then Vado throws a twist at us that bumps the story into a sort of campfire tale, and it still works wonderfully.

“Big Game” by Aaron A. is next. A big game hunter, bored with bringing down animals, decides to try his hand at the legendary ghosts of Gracey. As with most human visitors to the house, though, he finds the ghosts more than he can handle. This story is just okay – mostly because the conclusion is one we’ve already seen a few times in this series and will no doubt see again, as it fits perfectly into the purpose of the title. It still works as a story, but it starts to feel a little choreographed.

Roman Dirge’s “Night of the Ghost Fleas” is the next in his regular series of the adventures in Gracey Mansion’s Pet Cemetery. This time out, a ghost dog winds up infested with ghost fleas, and winds up desperate to find a way to get rid of them. The Pet Cemetery stories are basically pure comedy in the sort of slightly morbid Nightmare Before Christmas style. They’re wonderfully funny, and I’m quite glad it’s become a regular feature.

Finally, Vado and Mike Moss provide part four of their “Mystery of the Manse” serial, telling the story of Lord Gracey, the pirate whose house has become the Haunted Mansion. The first three chapters told of his sordid past, including some deeds a lot nastier than you’d expect to find in a Disney comic. This issue, love causes him to settle down, but a jealous would-be lover has plans of her own. With the introduction of the characters in this issue, the direction of this storyline becomes quite clear and even adds a dash of real tragedy that works very well.

In the end, the diverse array of stories makes this a very unique comic book, and even more so if you look at it as part of the Disney canon. Fortunately, this is one instance where “unique” and “good” are pretty much synonymous.

Rating: 8/10