Y’know, for some unexplained, mysterious reason I really wanted to make a joke referencing Kid Rock (aka Robert James Ritchie, the blandest name ever) and I have no real reason as to why. I don’t particularly like Kid Rock or his music but it just seemed like a good idea. But then again almost all my jokes seem like good ideas. Then I make them.
Anyways. So I’m back, the fog has lifted, the earth has shifted and raised the gifted–damnit! I started making a Kid Rock reference again. What the Hell, me?
Stop making Kid Rock references. Stop it. It’s inappropriate. Alright, shake it off. *cue shaking my head side to side, Nixon-impersonation style* Woo, okay. I think I’m done.
But not with this article, that should’ve already gone underway. So, let’s jump right the fuck into it, this proverbial pit of monsters and creepy shit in comics with this edition of Peril In Panels! So this week we’re doing something different, something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. I’ll be talking about more than one single comic in this article, one from Marvel and two from Dark Horse. I was originally going to do Kraven’s Last Hunt or maybe Preludes and Nocturnes, the first collected volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (or maybe even some Emily Carroll “His Face All Red”) but I decided to hold off on those, because I want to take the time to really dissect ’em and explain what I think of them and more importantly WHY I think that. So the perfect solution is to do these smaller stories. Bonus is that they’re all perfect for this article. Enjoy!
First up is the story “House of Blood and Sorrow” from Giant-Sized Wolverine #1, written by David Lapham and with art handled by the great David Aja.
Basic Plot Overview (Kinda Spoilers Ahead):
While fighting a robot sent from HYDRA, Wolverine is severely wounded (i.e. BURNED MOST OF HIS SKIN OFF) and crashes with the robot onto a rural town in North Dakota. Found by the local deputy, a jumpy man, he’s promptly shot in the head when he groggily cuts the barrel of the alien-fearing deputy’s shotgun off and rendered unconscious.
When the deputy leaves to get the sherif (and a posse, with guns, nukes and a bazooka) the wounded Canadian is found by Leelee Buchman, a small girl who drags him to her dilapidated farmhouse to care for him out of the kindness of her heart. This farm house and the Buchman family are left alone and scorned by the town as “freaks” and with reason. The Buchman family has a terrible secret and it isn’t just why all the animals are sickly and have two heads. And that secret is that Mama isn’t really dead.
Now the art and writing here are both top notch. The writing’s a surprise because I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by David Lapham, or at least I’ve never noticed I was reading anything by David lap ham that would make me want to remember his name (sorry, David, that’s not supposed to be insulting but kinda came out that way) like Robert Kirkman or Danielle Corsetto or any other amazing writer/artist/person. The real shock though, was when I noticed this was David Aja’s art. Not a bad shock, by any means,
more of a “This doesn’t look like Hawkeye-art” kinda shock. And what I mean is while I’m more familiar with Aja’s work on Hawkeye (it’s FUCKING AMAZING) this didn ‘t really fit. Mainly because Hawkeye can be serious, it can be a little dark, but for the most part it’s a fun, brightly-coloured adventure kinda book and this story is creepy and dark and not really much of an adventure. The art in this story is moody, full of heavy shadows and at times even so stylized I’d say it was cartoony. But then I noticed how remarkably similar all the more realistically drawn portions were to the Aja-Hawkeye art and now I see just how crazy good this person is. Even mores than before.
Dialogue and body language in this issue are very well done, with these rural folks all having just enough twang and their gestures and poses all telling what they feel and even a bit of their backstory. The deputy, who again is already constantly nervous and jittery, degenerates more and more as the story progresses until he literally starts just shooting in all directions (because aliens are scary, folks) and saying crazy crap like “Green and blue,
I see you.” Seriously, what the ever-loving, infinitely torturous Hell is that? When did this yokel muster up the brain-power to come up with that creepy-ass one-liner? The answer: when he finally took that last step off the edge and shot up the place.
There’s also another great piece of writing and art in this that needs to be mentioned. When Leelee is telling ol’ Wolvie a bit of backstory on her family and the townsfolk, she mentions how her mother had a bunch of other kids before her. Unfortunately they all…took after their mom a bit too much, lets just say. And didn’t make it/weren’t allowed to make it by the doctor. “The Doc put them in the bath.” When I first read that, years ago, I didn’t really get it. I honestly thought this back-water doctor just straight-up drowned these lil’ tykes. Then I realized, after looking at the art a bit more closely, that Leelee is innocently (but bluntly) saying it was an ACID BATH. The doctor put these children into an ACID BATH because they thought “Well, this can’t ever come into the world. Better DISOLVE IT INTO NOTHING.” The tag-team of the writing and art really hammers home how disturbing that is. And acid baths are already pretty goddamn disturbing. Especially when newborns are involved.
So with this combination of really solid, off-putting writing from Lapham (of whom I definitely want to read more of) and Aja’s jaw-dropping art (coupled with solid lettering and colours) it really makes this stand-alone, never mentioned again story just even better. It’s brutal, it’s grim and all the weird, freaky pieces fit into each other so damn well the whole things like a jigsaw puzzle. Takes a bit to come together but when it does and you witness the complete glory of it, you are in awe. Oh and the ending is great, by the way.
It has this open-ended-ness to it, despite the fact that everything’s pretty much wrapped up that leaves you with this feeling that’s…mostly happy but also full of loneliness at the same time. I really enjoyed it and I know you will to.
And now onto the art. I gotta say after reading Hawkeye “My Life As A Weapon” with David Aja on the art duties for the first part of that book I really was surprised to see this was Aja. Like, 100% this isn’t David Aja at all. This is dark and moody, when I think of Aja I think of “My Life As A Weapon” and I don’t think moody or dark. Serious at times, sure. Well done, beautifully rendered stylized action and just…everything but I don’t think moody or dark. But this is David Fucking Aja and its amazing. It took me a while but I really saw the connections. While his work on Hawkeye was mostly bright and colourful I forgot his run on Daredevil and how dark that run was. How brutally grim it was for the most part. And now it all makes sense. Because this art, while exaggerated at sometimes and expressionistic with inking and so forth, it really is well laid-out. Everything fits in this world, if you get what I mean. Nothing seems off. People move like people, action is chaotic and everything works just so Groddamned* well. I can’t put it in any other way. Just look at it. You’ll see.
Writing wise all the dialogue is pitch-perfect. Everybody’s got the right amount of I-live-in-the-sticks twang, from the jittery deputy to the sherif to Leelee and Horice, her drunk dad. It really fits in with the setting.
*I really want to push Grodd as an occasional replacement for the word God in all my articles, just to see if it annoys anyone. I find it funny, because I find the idea of Gorilla Grodd funny.
Next is “A Tough Nut to Crack” by Sam Inabinet from Dark Horse Presents #35.
Basic Plot Overview (kind spoilers but this is from 1989 so you really don’t get to be mad if I spoil it): While bored at a lame party our narrator is approached by a renowned mullah (preacher), Ibn Al-Wahabi, who’s a tad too much on the zealot-side for his likings and decides to screw with him via an old folk-tale and the help of a hidden nut.
Now this story I really, really like. It’s got a monster, it’s funny and the art’s very good.
And by very good I mean this Inabinet guy loves cross-hatching and does it very, very well. This style makes the story just ooze atmosphere. When you’re looking at the panels about the party, you feel you’re right there with the narrator, bored and hiding in a dark, comfy corner. When it switches to the desert and the heavy inking gives way to more line-art, causing the desert to appear (as it should) vast and bright. The pacing of the art is great, with enough being implied in-between the panels (aka the gutters) as to keep it quick but not too fast. And Inabinet’s take on giants is amazing. The one that appears (Akbar Ad-Djinn, Destroyer of the Pre-Adamite Metropolis, Right Hand of Iblis) is such a disgusting, hairy, barely clothed monstrosity and I love the guy. He’s arrogant and you get every bit of this not only from the writing but also (more importantly) the art.
Back to the story, which I feel needs more description. It really is more of a comedy than anything else. I got this when I was maybe ten years old I figured it would be a scary story. But instantly upon re-reading it’s really just the story of one guy with an open-mind messing with someone who’s mind is practically bolted-shut. So much so that he can be tricked into thinking that something he previously would’ve considered A) impossible and B) blasphemous) is true. And then that same man getting so angry he chucks the evidence of this act of bamboozlement (wow, apparently that IS a word) into a large body of water. The moral of it is to just stay open-minded and when somebody tells you they met a giant, trapped him and then hand you the containment device with a hammer to smash it open with you just look at them, laugh and say “That’s a bunch of bullshit.”
Unless it’s true DO NOT RELEASE GIANTS. THEY ARE DANGEROUS, PEOPLE.
And lastly, but not least(ly) we have another one from good ol’ Mike Mignola, issue #3 from the five issue mini-series “In The Service of Angels” from the comic Witchfinder!
Basic Plot Overview: In the first Witchfinder mini-series we look at our protagonist
Sir Edward Grey’s first excursions in the service of the Queen of England.
His target: the secret society known as The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra.
Oh and there’s a horrific monster on the loose. That to.
This series is much different than Hellboy because Mignola’s only writing on this one and the only art contributions to my knowledge from him are covers. Which are very good as always. Art on this one is handled by Ben Stenbeck with letters by Clem Robins and colours by Dave Stewert. So we have are usual Mignola-story cast of characters here on the ones and twos (AKA art and writing). Stenbeck’s gotten some flack for his art on the series but I happen to disagree with the complaints because they all seem to just boil down to “Wah, I want Mike to draw it, Stenbeck doesn’t look the same Waaaaaah!” Eff that noise. Stenbeck’s art fits really well in the world Mignola creates in Witchfinder. And for Grodd’s sake, the man draws INCREDIBLY similar to Mignola. Like, really look at some of the panels and tell me that’s not just Mignola with slightly more detail. Not Fegredo levels of more detail but still more.
I really enjoyed the inking on this issue, coupled with Dave Stewert’s colouring it really makes this series stand out from other Mignola-helmed works. Stenbeck’s use of expressions and body language to visually get across points that dialogue can’t is really outstanding. And during action scenes (which is to say the beginning of this particular issue) everything just comes together to form an impressive showcase of art. The fights are awkward and clumsy but not in a bad way. Like how real fights are. No matter how technically sound your fighting ability is, sometimes fights are just straight up not so much displays of athleticism (especially when swords and big fucking monsters from the hollows of the Earth are involved) but just a bunch of people swinging until they hit and, when purchase with said swing has been found, ripping their blades out of the opponent’s back and driving it into his/her/it’s skull. That’s just how it goes sometimes and this comic really portrays that well.
Sure the art has problems, all art does. But an awkward panel here or there doesn’t detract from the story. Which is surprising because it can.
The writing is typical Mignola: REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Not as full of old-timey references as BPRD or Hellboy but then again this is the mini-series, I’m sure he found
a way to do it in the actual full-sized story arcs. Dialogue between characters is fast paced a lot of the time. Not necessarily a bad thing but I’m used to lots of pauses and implied things with Mignola, this is most definitely an effect of the mini-series. You get a lot of backstory in this issue, it being the middle of the story and all. New characters are introduced and histories are explained. Oh and that is the part when references to the Hollow Earth and Hyperboria come into play, so he did find a way to cram in more references.
All in all this is a fine issue, a fine comic and it really makes me want to pick up A) the rest of this mini-series and B) more Witchfinder. Like, a lot more Witchfinder.
All of the Witchfinder there is to find, if I’m honest. Or a witch. WITCHFINDER!
Man, such a great word.
But all good things must come to an end. But before I go, I need to give you freaks some scans from the comics. Since “A Tought Nut To Crack” is so short and so old I’m going to post nearly the entire thing (you’re only going to be missing one page).
While from the other two I’ll only be posting choice scans.
“A Tough Nut to Crack”
“In The Service of Angels” #3 of 5
“House Of Blood and Sorrow”
I hope you enjoyed this article and I want you to know that the 3 previously mentioned comics (Emily Carol’s “His Face All Red”, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Volume One
and “Kraven’s Last Hunt” by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck) will be the next comics
I review. I believe, as I type this write now, that “His Face All Red” will be first, because as I mentioned previously that these particular stories are so good and so near and dear to my heart that I want them to get as much time as possible to make their article debuts perfect. Or at least entertaining and informative so you jerks will go and check ’em out.
Anyways, thanks for reading, enjoy the scans and, as always, keep it monstrous!