Nicolas Winding Refn Brings Elisa Lam Story to The Big Screen

If you don’t know the story of Elisa Lam, it is a simple and haunting one to tell.  After going missing and a strange video (see below) cropped up, Lam’s body was found in the water tanks on top of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.  The Cecil, former home of The Night Stalker Ricky Ramerez and host to multiple suicides and other dark and disturbing stories is ripe fodder for the director of Nicolas Winding Refn.

According to Deadline, Refn is in early talks to direct The Bringing, a movie based on the mythology of the Cecil Hotel, for Sony pictures.  This has a whole lot of potential, Refn has a lock down on making atmospheric and creepy movies (see Bronson, and Valhalla Rising), and this story has all the creep and atmosphere you could ever look for.

Check out the actual video of Lam moving around the Cecil on the night of her death, and read the article from Deadline HERE.

 

The Creeping Flesh – (1973 – Tigon Pictures)

The Creeping Flesh is one of the best Lovecraft films without actually being an adaptation of any of his work!

Peter Cushing stars as an aged scientist who relates a story to a fellow medical man about discovering an ancient giant’s skeleton on an archeological expedition. He brings the skeleton back and when cleaning one of its fingers, discovers that it has grown new flesh. Horrified and fascinated, he severs the member and samples its blood, believing it contains pure evil.

Christopher Lee plays Cushing’s brother, and despite the familial relationship, they are still (as usual) antagonists. Lee runs a sanitarium that is practicing ways to extract the madness from patients. Cushing’s own wife was an inmate there and the scientist fears that his daughter (Lorna Heilbron) might suffer the same fate.

After his wife has passed away, his daughter finds out the truth, as Cushing had told her that she had died several years before. Cushing, anguished and fearful that she may go mad too, develops a serum from the evil blood mixed with his own “pure” blood and injects his daughter with it. As a result, she becomes something of a floozie, dresses up in one of her mother’s costumes (she was a Parisian dancer!), and starts slashing at men with broken bottles and her own fingers. This slows the film down considerably and takes away from the far more fascinating aspect of the mysterious skeleton and its “creeping flesh,” that made the beginning so compelling.

Things finally kick into gear when Lee sends a man to steal the skeleton, who murders Cushing’s assistant but also ends up wrecking the carriage carrying the skeleton in a rain storm.

The creature finishes off the man and makes his way back to Cushing, for a truly jolting and unforgettable conclusion of sorts.

Freddie Francis, being one of Hammer’s most notable cinematographers, really captures the Victorian atmosphere in this film. There’s a sense of doom and death that hovers over the film and makes for an uneasy viewing experience. The asylum is shot in a way that reminds the viewer of how awful and claustrophobic the conditions were in such a place at that time.

He was also wise to reveal very little of the monster, which is very effective, especially when standing ominously against the trees in a rainstorm, one of this reviewer’s favorite images from that decade’s terror cinema.

Cushing is his usual sympathetic self, though we’re never quite certain if he is really onto something with his experiment, just plain mad, or both. Fans of the actor will enjoy the highly poignant scene where he catches his daughter playing piano in her mother’s room and mistakes her for his dead wife. It makes one wonder how much of himself was in that scene, as the actor had lost his own wife not long before this film was made.

Lee doesn’t have as much to do but makes the most of his part, evoking some sympathy but ultimately playing something of a bastard, at least we suppose. The final denouement suggests that he may have double crossed Cushing and won the prize both had been seeking with their research on separating madness from the individual.

The Creeping Flesh reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft in its depiction of an ancient evil that has long been at rest and one day threatens to come back and finish off humanity. Cushing is like most of the author’s protagonists, he’s a man of science who means well, but is ultimately driven mad by the discovery and power of such a thing.

It has the atmosphere and setting of Victorian terror and certainly the look of a Hammer film, but the psychological effect makes it more on par with the worlds envisioned by Lovecraft and his contemporaries and makes this film somewhat unique.

The Creeping Flesh is slow moving at times and the subplot with Cushing’s daughter is uninteresting and does little for the plot but the two stars and the theme are strong enough to recommend this for viewing on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

James C. Simpson – Contributing Reviewer – (jcs)

James C. Simpson resides in the wild mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. He lives in solitude but enjoys the vast nature that surrounds him and the inspiration it brings with it. He enjoys the cinema and classic literature, but is particularly keen to the horror genre.

The Witcher #2 (April – 2014 – Dark Horse)

The-Witcher-2-Cover

Based on the popular The Witcher video games, the comic finds Geralt and his cohort Jakob entering what could be politely called a, “clearly haunted house”.  The front door opens of its own volition and the Jakob’s wife disappears from a balcony, the exterior is covered with vegetation and rot.  It seems like this may not be the best place for the two to enter, but Jakob is intent on finding his wife, and it is night, so the two enter the home.

Once within the home the two are attacked by a creature who The Witcher soon puts into retreat.  The rest of the house seems empty but has food laid out on banquet tables and a fire in the hearth.  Geralt settles down for the night while Jakob goes off to find his wife.  While resting Geralt is confronted by a succubus who in the friendly way that succubus do guides Geralt around the sprawling and magical mansion that she says they are all trapped in.

Artist Joe Querio has really created a dark and evocative world for The Witcher to inhabit.  While writer Paul Tobin has fleshed out a world that seems very fleshed out, full of magic, charms and creatures that all have depth.  Tobin manages to still explain things that may not be clear to people that don’t play the video game through Geralt explaining things to Jakob.

Having not played the game I have to say that this book stands alone fairly well.  I picked it up on a whim (with no knowledge that it was even part of a video game series) and it made it into my pull on the strength of the first issue.  This is just straight up monster hunter stuff, in the same vein as a book like Baltimore.  It is well executed, and as of right now they have me hooked.  Can’t wait to check out the next issue.

—–

Professionally Gabriel LLanas works at a comic book and game shop in Greeley, CO called The Nerd Store.  He loves his job because it gives him an excuse to be obsessed with things he was already obsessed with.  The rest of the time he is either hanging out with his wife and four kids or reading a shit load of comic books so he can write about them here, because if he doesn’t do it, he will go mad.  The last time he checked he was in charge of the site, but there is a good chance the site is in charge of him.  Follow him on Twitter (well really the site mostly) @wolforchestra

Nailbiter #1 Sells Out.

So it is always cool to me that horror comics are consistently amazing sellers for the indie comic companies.  Image has hit another home-run with Nailbiter.

NAILBITER A KILLER SUCCESS
The first issue of the new serial killer crime series
joins line-up for 2nd printing

“If Josh died I wish he’d leave Nailbiter to me in his will so I could say it was my idea.”
—Scott Snyder (WYTCHES, Batman, American Vampire)

Joshua Williamson (GHOSTED) and Mike Henderson’s (MASKS AND MOBSTERS) new series, NAILBITER, is already causing insomnia and nightmares industry-wide. The newly-released horror suspense series was announced at Image Expo in January and generated early comparisons to Twin Peaks and The Silence of the Lambs. It has sold out at the distributor level and is slated for a second printing.

Praise for NAILBITER:

“Prepare your cuticles for this masterful bit of horror.” —David Pepose, Newsarama

“In the end, Nailbiter stands on a premise so instantly enticing that you can almost see the movie trailer.” —Robert Tutton, PASTE Magazine

“Nailbiter will get under your skin. That’s where it’s most comfortable. It’ll fill you with a vague sense of dread as it drags you into the fascinating world of serial killers. It’ll hold you tightly in its grip and compel you to think about the more unsettling parts of human existence. It’s chilling, unique, and a total revelation for horror comics.” —Zac Thompson, Bloody Disgusting

NAILBITER #1 has completely sold out at the distributor level, but may still be available in comic stores. It is currently available digitally on the Image Comics website (imagecomics.com) and the official Image Comics iOS app, as well as on Comixology on the web (comixology.com), iOS, Android, and Google Play.

Image Comics is pleased to announce that this first issue will be going back to print to meet customer demand.

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #3 (April – 2014 – IDW)

frank

Back in 2012 when Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson unleashed Frankenstein Alive, Alive! on the world I was instantly hooked.  I was a really big fan of the original Frankenstein adaption that Wrightson had done in the 80′s, I would spend my time in the local book store flipping the the pages in awe of the illustrations, and when the card set came out I bought pack after pack of them until I had the whole collection.

This book is the continuation of that, a true sequel to Frankenstein as written by Steve Niles.  The Monster has all the pathos and thought that Mary Shelly’s creation had.  It has the ability to speak, and it dwells, deeply on its past mistakes.  It has hope and fears, and most of all it is driven by its loneliness.  Niles takes his subject matter seriously, and as a consequence this is a serious book.  Dramatic and nearly flawless in its execution.  This is exactly how you would think that the sequel to the Frankenstein novel would be.

All of that doesn’t even take into account the art.  Bernie Wrightson is acclaimed, and with good reason.  This book is filled with stunning visual landscapes that run the gamut from nature to the fine details of a mad scientist’s laboratory.  Each cross hatched shade designed to make every detail of the images pop off of the page.  The black and white makes it feel like a Universal movie, down to the fog rolling across the heath and the rotten insides of a crumbling manor house.  That level of artistry takes time.

Time that this book has had plenty of.  If you look at the beginning of this review you will see that the first issues of this book came out in 2012.  This the third issue of Frankenstein Alive, Alive! has been two years in the making.  While the art and the story were well worth the wait, here is hoping that the next few issues of the comic come out in something like a timely manner.  I would really hate to have to wait another two years for the next issue to come out.

If you are seeing that two year gap and thinking to yourself, “Ugh, no way to I want to get on the internet and try and hunt down the first two issues,” you are in luck.  IDW was good enough to think that through and have also released Frankenstein Alive, Alive! Reanimated Edition.  A single issue that collects the first two issues of the book so that you don’t have to track any of that down.  You can just pick up the two books and enjoy.  Trust me you will enjoy.

One final note on these books.  If you aren’t overly familiar with the original novel Frankenstein, you are also in luck with that.  The end pages of each issue have a couple chapters of the original novel for you to read.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  You will probably be surprised how different the story is that you are expecting.  It is a really great idea of what to do with the back part of the book.

Professionally Gabriel LLanas works at a comic book and game shop in Greeley, CO called The Nerd Store.  He loves his job because it gives him an excuse to be obsessed with things he was already obsessed with.  The rest of the time he is either hanging out with his wife and four kids or reading a shit load of comic books so he can write about them here, because if he doesn’t do it, he will go mad.  The last time he checked he was in charge of the site, but there is a good chance the site is in charge of him.  Follow him on Twitter (well really the site mostly) @wolforchestra

Haunted #1 – (April – 2014 – Red 5 Comics)

I’ll admit upfront that I’m not a big gamer, but what struck me most about this comic was how much it felt like a video game. Writer Scott Chitwood creates a post-apocalyptic setting that would be a comfortable home for zombies, but has instead populated it with ghosts. There are clear distinctions between “good” or “harmless” ghosts and the dangerous ones, all receiving cute nicknames based on distinct characteristics (like the banshee or “screamer” that nearly gets our hero). The first half of the issue is spent fighting for food, and running (or hiding) from the malicious ghosts – which would be a great way to introduce players to the world of a video game. Unlike most video games though, the beardy white guy is a supporting character; and our protagonist is a girl called Sarah. She’s refreshingly the everywoman – she’s not perfect, as demonstrated when she beats an old woman and steals her food – and she doesn’t have any special abilities. She’s at the center of the story because she happens to run into two men from Europe who need directions to New York. Sarah is going to try to stop the demon apocalypse with a French scientist and an English pastor; a fun pairing, but their snippy science vs. faith arguments could grow stale quickly – this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. I also have a hard time believing that a religious official wouldn’t have heard of Abbadon, but I look forward to the ultimate boss battle with this demon, who’s apparently set up a castle in Europe somewhere. Delightful.

Sarah’s beau, Steve, was possessed by demons – although we aren’t given much proof that they were a couple other than some awkward dialogue from the onlookers. It’s like the narrative assumes that we’ll put the pieces together because one is a boy and one is a girl. What’s even stranger is that when Steve comes in, Sarah’s otherwise verbose internal monologue mostly shuts up. The monologue is a useful device over the beginning flashbacks, but it’s used a bit too much, and Chitwood flirts dangerously with having the story spoken rather than shown.

It’s a shame artist Danny Luckert can’t do more of the storytelling, since he does some great work, especially toward the second half of the comic. The first pages feel rushed, with some weird anatomy and wonky faces, but these issues disappear toward the end. Luckert’s ghost designs are largely serviceable, but unspectacular, although he comes up with a few neat ones (the aforementioned screamer is pretty spooky). Some panels are really lovely though, like framing protagonist Sarah behind the glowing hand of a white spectre, and the obviously Buffy-inspired cover. The colors by Ivan Plascencia enhance Luckert’s work, and the finished look is good, but again nothing spectacular.

The plot set-up interests me enough to read three more issues, and I’m looking forward to seeing what New York looks like in this apocalypse. I’m also curious about the side-effects Steve might suffer from multiple possessions. If you like post-apocalyptic survival stories, but you’ve had enough of zombies, this might be a good one to check out. And now is the time too – it’s already been optioned for a movie adaptation.

Allison O’Toole – Contributing Reviewer – (ao)

Allison has been interested in the weird and spooky since she saw The Nightmare Before Christmas at the impressionable age of 3. Her English degree qualifies her to read a lot, so she figured she would put it to use and spends too much of her time reading or writing about comics. She likes horror that relies on atmosphere and characterization, and stories where ladies aren’t only victims. Allison can be found in the cold wasteland of Canada, where she spends most of her life on the internet.  Find her on Twitter @AllisonMOToole or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/a.o.writer

 

Vampires – (1998 – Columbia/TriStar)

Vampires is a film that had much potential but squandered it.

It was released at the same time as the more well known Blade and has the edge in grittiness and the macho cool that Carpenter’s toughest films are known for, operating more as a modern day western in design, but it ultimately fails to deliver.

As with Blade, the film cannot hope to make up for a great introduction, which includes a team of vampire hunters who dispatch a New Mexico farmhouse full of undead. They use everything from sub-machine guns to a crossbow that works on a pulley and drags the vampires into the light and makes them into crispy critters.

The goofy concept of a vampire-hunting team being hired by the Vatican (!) to take care of the international vampire problem is ripe for humor and fun, but is unfortunately halted before it had any real chance to begin. A vampire referred to as Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffin) massacres the entire team of vampire hunters except for their foul mouthed leader, Jack Crow (James Woods) and his partner, Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin.) It’s a nicely directed bit of mayhem but seems far too rushed to satisfy as the film cannot hope to match its early gory excesses.

There’s also a requisite babe played by Sheryl Lee, a prostitute who was bitten by Valek and has a psychic link as she turns, which guides the hunters to his location.

Carpenter’s films are often punctuated by some of the coolest music scores imaginable and carry with them a dark, nihilistic edge that has the 70s written all over them. The atmosphere he creates is effective and the take on the vampire hunter as being no more than vicious mercenaries is pretty creative and light years away from Peter Cushing and Van Helsing.

James Woods is memorable in a rare heroic role as Jack and his improvs are a great deal of fun as he portrays perhaps the most pissed-off vampire hunter in the movies. He may not have the gadgetry of Wesley Snipes as Blade but he makes up for it with plenty of piss and vinegar and an affinity for one liners.

Tim Guinee lends support as a young priest sent by the Vatican to explain the mission and the importance of destroying Valek, who in a novel twist, is after some ancient cross that can make the vampire walk about in daylight.

Oh joy.

Guinee is perfectly credible in the role of the “green” kid who has to learn how to harden up and fight, as with so many westerns, but like seemingly everybody in this movie, is in search of solid character development.

There’s a pseudo-attraction between Baldwin and Lee but that goes nowhere fast and the actors share little chemistry. Carpenter’s film has a fast pace and that’s fine, but character development was needed as we learn very little about these people and what drives them. Woods being a seasoned performer is the only one to really rise above the material, unless one counts a slumming Maximilian Schell who portrays a Cardinal and is far away from films like Judgment At Nuremberg (1962.)

Vampires is not one of Carpenter’s better pictures and can’t compare to his original classics that started in 1976 with the tense Assault On Precinct 13 and ended in 1982 with his remake of The Thing. Ever since the financial disaster of that film, Carpenter’s flicks have been hit and miss and in some unfortunate cases, released at the wrong time. Both Big Trouble In Little China (1986) and They Live (1988) were not huge successes on initial release but have gained considerable cult followings since.

Vampires was a financial success but feels incomplete. Apparently, the film’s budget was cut by 2/3 and it shows on the screen. It never becomes the vampire epic that it promises in the beginning and it never quite eclipses it’s lead competitor of that year, but it’s not entirely squashed by it either.

While hardly anything great, the film does deliver on action and carries with it a tough vibe that is uniquely this director’s vision and it certainly looks better now in comparison to most of the vampire decades we had to suffer through in the last decade.

At least this film had ideas, however indifferently executed they were.

I don’t think we can say the same for Twilight.

James C. Simpson – Contributing Reviewer – (jcs)

James C. Simpson resides in the wild mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. He lives in solitude but enjoys the vast nature that surrounds him and the inspiration it brings with it. He enjoys the cinema and classic literature, but is particularly keen to the horror genre.

Nevermore: A Graphic Adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories (SelfMadeHero)

NEVERMOREFor over 160 years Edgar Allan Poe’s works have spawned a plethora of writers, film makers, and dreamers. His work reflected a life of despair and poverty which, most believe, was the primary influence that gave his writing such a dark perspective. Though mostly known for a handful of works, such as “The Raven,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” there is a good chance you have either watched or read an adaptation of one of his many other crime or horror stories.

Throughout this collection of graphic adaptations artists and writers have collaborated to bring a modern spin to a few of Poe’s greater and lesser known stories. Ten tales of suspense and the supernatural, brought to life by a few of SelfMadeHero’s best-known and most-used creators.

The Raven: Adapted by Dan Whitehead, art by Stuart Tipples. Kicking off the collection is Poe’s infamous poem, “The Raven.” Adapted by Dan Whitehead and illustrated by Stuart Tipples, this is the adaptation that most closely emulates Poe’s original content and doesn’t veer too far from the original text. Capturing the emotion through dialogue and the illustrations, Whitehead and Tipples do a great job getting this anthology started.

The Pit and the Pendulum: Adapted by Jamie Delano, art by Steve Pugh. Delano and Pugh have created a tasteful modern expression of corrupted interrogation and torture all while hanging on to Poe’s motif of mental degradation. I like it when these two work together (I have previously viewed their work in The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume 2) and am officially a fan of Pugh’s complex style.

The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar: Adapted by Jeremy Slater, art by John McCrea. As stated in this collection, when Poe’s original tale was published, it was believed to be true. The account of a soul suspended in limbo through hypnotism terrified people, but we are in a different time now, and Slater and McCrea’s idea of how this would take place today is on spot. Although I wasn’t completely satisfied with the story, the ending did bring it home to Poe’s final phrase, “Upon the bed… there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome-of detestable putridity.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue: Adapted by Ian Edginton, art by D’Israeli. This is another duo I have seen before, but in The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume 1. I really don’t care for Mr. Poe’s version, however I found some enjoyment in Edginton and D’Israeli’s version. I have come to appreciate D’Israeli’s work over time and enjoy his cyberpunk outlook on this story.

The Fall of the House of Usher: Adapted by Dan Whitehead, art by Shane Ivan Oakley. I like Oakley’s twisted abstract illustrations, but found it hard at times, without any color, to distinguish what exactly was going on in each panel. Also, I’m not too keen on their idea of Roderick Usher being a haggard drugged out rock star. It takes away from his relationship with his sister, which is kind of the center of what is going on.

The Black Cat: Adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion, art by James Fletcher. Not a bad adaptation, but not a favorable one by any means. I really didn’t buy into the storyline, though the panels were done nicely.

The Oval Portrait: Adapted by David Berner, art by Natalie Sandells. Though most aren’t fond of this story, it was one of the inspirations for Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I feel as though this adaptation didn’t capture what Wilde must have seen in Poe’s work, and missed a lot of meaning.

The Tell-Tale Heart: Adapted by Jeremy Slater, art by Alice Duke. I expected this to be a better or the best of the collection, but was let down. Though Duke’s work is very good, and usually in color, these illustrated panels just didn’t carry the depth I’d normally see in her work. Unfortunately that and the story didn’t help to retell this classic.

The Masque of the Red Death: Adapted by Adam Prosser, art by Erik Rangel. This was probably the biggest letdown of the entire anthology. Though the panels were illustrated nicely, both the storyline and progression of the panels just left me shaking my head.

So it is probably apparent by now that I did not really care for this graphic anthology. It did kick open the door with two really good adaptations, but slowly lost traction and eventually lost my appreciation. Although I am not a fan of these collective revisions, I still believe each of them deserves to be looked over. This isn’t something I would recommend to any avid fan or scholar to Edgar Allan Poe’s work. Nor would I say it is something you need to have on your book shelf, but if you come across it at a yard sale or lying on a friend’s coffee table give it a look and see what you think.

David Joseph – Contributing Reviewer (dj)

David Joseph is the creator and sole writer for the strange site, Unspeakable Gibberer, where he.. well gibbers about things of an atypical nature and shares new things in the world of H.P. Lovecraft. He has had reviews published for West Pigeon Press, and has been sought out by the likes of Robin Wyatt Dunn, and Martian Migraine Press for advanced readings of books they want reviewed. On cloudless nights you can find David chanting dirges into the prairie winds of North Dakota. He has a wife, a dog, three cats, oh and a daughter. If you dig what he’s got going on, contact him at Unspeakablegibberer@live.com, or on Twitter (@UnspkbleGibberr) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UnspeakableGibberer).

Constantine #12 (DC – May – 2014)

I have never pretended that I have liked crossovers.  Sometimes I do participate in them if I think that the plot is interesting, or if it is a big enough deal in the universe that it is necessary.  Forever Evil the huge crossover plot that has been running in the DC Universe for the last six months or so is one of the the crossover series that I just haven’t been that interested in.    Unfortunately the crossover has made its way into one of the comics that I read.

Even worse is that it made the title virtually unreadable as a stand alone title for several months.  Forever Evil: Blight is a small sub branch of the Forever Evil arc that makes a continuing story, but only if you are picking up Trinity of Sin: Pandora, and Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger.  If you aren’t these comics come across as disjointed and confusing.  Your only option for enjoying the title while it is in this particular crossover is to buy the comics that are connecting to it.  That is really frustrating to me.

To add insult to injury the art (when combined with the coloring) is a muddled mess.  Beni R. Lobel has created a nightmare realm that is full of futuristic mystical machinery and crackling mystical energy.  Mystical energy that colorist Brad Anderson has made the kind of glowing bold white that is ever so popular in comics right now; that can be used to great effect when there is something for that glowing white to contrast against.  Unfortunately the whole image is full of that glowing crackling imagery.  It makes the visuals for the page hard to read, and washed out often enough that I noticed how much I didn’t like it.

So for me this comic is a hot mess, but I love John Constantine, and even with a couple of months of terrible, almost unreadable Constantine comics hitting the shelves I’ll keep up with it (as a matter of fact having just read #13 I know that the series goes back to being a good ole stand alone comic).  Truth be told the title isn’t that strong, not compared to Hellblazer, and if it weren’t for my love of John Constantine this patch of weak books would have probably caused me to drop the title.  Don’t pull this crap again DC.

Gabriel LLanas – Founder and Tireless Slave to the Site – (gl)

Professionally Gabriel LLanas works at a comic and gaming shop.  He loves his job because it gives him an excuse to be totally obsessed with things he was already totally obsessed with.  The rest of the time he is either hanging out with his wife and four kids or reading a shit load of comic books so he can write about them here, because if he doesn’t do it, he will go mad.  The last time he checked he was in charge of the site, but there is a good chance the site is in charge of him.  Follow him (but mostly this page) on Twitter @wolforchestra

 

Ghosted #9 (April – 2014 – Image)

This issue involved demonic ghost jungle creatures, automatically making it a step up from last issue. I have no idea why they liked Jackson so much (perhaps only because he’s… haunted) but that opens the possibility of him commanding an army of ghost animals, and I frankly can’t imagine a more fun way for this series to go. This issue in particular improved on some of the issues of tone that the last issue had, more comfortably blending the horror and comedic elements. The abrupt ending was hilarious and doubles as a great cliff-hanger. I’m enjoying Jackson’s borderline incompetence too, it adds another layer of humor on top of constant mouthing-off. Even if it didn’t work out quite as planned, it was great to see his talent for sticking his foot in his mouth put to good use. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of support cast, or just that he’s less whiny, but I’m finding Jackson overall much more endearing in this arc.

I warmed up to Nina in this issue too, although the confusion about her motivation persists.  When Jackson tells her that the cult would turn her into a skin-book, she reacts with very little surprise or anger. I hope she gets out of this whole situation okay (and I’d love to see more of her and Jackson interacting, they were briefly great together), but she still seems to exist more as a plot device than a character.

Hopefully we’ll get Anderson back in the present too, although the flashback to Winters’ last job was the most effective horror in the issue. Anderson mentions that Jackson has “a thing with knives,” which must have been mentioned in an earlier issue, but I’d be lying if I said I remembered that. She confirms that his discomfort in that are comes from having killed his possessed team with a knife, which was really creepy despite the awkward narration. Davide Gianfelice’s rendering of the possessed, especially Juliet as she succumbs, is superb visceral horror. The Nina demon at the end was great too – it didn’t seem wholly necessary that she be mostly naked but I appreciate that she’s drawn muscularly, and not in some kind of pin-up pose. She looks appropriately dangerous and spooky. Finally, the ghost animals looked creepy and gross, but their docile body language near the end was funny and dissonant, so Gianfelice can clearly do more than horror. As always, Miroslav Mrva’s vibrant coloring is the icing on the cake, and this book looks much sharper for Mrva’s work.

Joshua Williamson has some interesting ideas, and it’s a crapshoot from issue to issue whether or not I’ll find them particularly engaging. I wish there were more characters in this arc who weren’t villains or victims – Jackson was initially surrounded by a number of more interesting folks with greyer moral codes. Still, there’s only one issue left in this arc, and there are a few characters I’d love to see more of going forward, Nina in particular. We keep rehashing the same story from Jackson’s past, but the wider mythology is slowly being expanded, and the series still has a lot of potential if it keeps exploring outward.

Allison O’Toole – Contributing Reviewer – (ao)

Allison has been interested in the weird and spooky since she saw The Nightmare Before Christmas at the impressionable age of 3. Her English degree qualifies her to read a lot, so she figured she would put it to use and spends too much of her time reading or writing about comics. She likes horror that relies on atmosphere and characterization, and stories where ladies aren’t only victims. Allison can be found in the cold wasteland of Canada, where she spends most of her life on the internet.  Find her on Twitter @AllisonMOToole or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/a.o.writer.