Tag Archives: macabre

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #6

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Another excellent installment in this arc! I keep thinking that the creative team cannot possibly keep up the quality of the writing and artwork, but yet with every issue I am astounded and impressed.

This issue is based upon a discussion between three familiars: Salem, the cat; and Nag and Nagaina, two cobras. They share the tales about how they were all once human but were transformed into animals. These tales of transformation comprise the issue.

What is so brilliant about this story is that it makes reference to numerous stories and folk tales that are part of our culture. There are allusions to Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Kipling, the Arabian Nights, pirate folklore, and so on. So what this short installment in the graphic series manages to achieve in just a few pages is demonstrate how stories cycle through our history, that our society and culture is guided by the stories that have been retold through generations.

As with so much great literature, you can read this without knowing the references to “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” or having never read “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and still enjoy it for the sheer elegance of the3 writing and the evocative artwork. But having knowledge of these texts adds another level of depth to the tale, making it interesting to a literature nerd like myself as well as being an entertaining read for the average reader.

There is nothing I love more than stories that serve as portals to literature, opening the vistas of the literary world to people who may not have been exposed to it. This is definitely one of those portal tales, or gateway drugs, enticing you into the wonderful world of art and the imagination.

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Creepy: Issue 23

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On a recent trip to the comic store, I opted to discontinue a couple arcs that I had been following. I had just lost interest and it felt like they were dragging out the stories. So, I perused the racks looking for something different and then an issue of Creepy caught my eye. The cover—dark, gothic, and spectral—enticed me. I have loved horror since I was a kid, and I used to read early versions of Creepy growing up (much to the dismay of my parents). I had read a couple of the “new” Creepy publications put out by Dark Horse,so I decided to pick this one up and give it a read. I have to say, I really liked it.

The stories in the issue were reminiscent of the old graphic horror tales I remember from my childhood. Even the black-and-white artwork captured the shadowy essence of early graphic horror. And rather than being serialized, where you have to commit to issue after issue following a labyrinthine arc, Creepy is composed of several short vignettes, each one a stand-alone tale steeped in folklore and the macabre. I particularly liked one story entitled “The Picture of Death,” which was about an 18th century traveler who stays in a boardinghouse room that has a cursed painting. The painting, populated with grotesquely surreal creatures right out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting, comes to life and draws the unsuspecting man into a nightmarish realm. It was an amazing depiction of how art can also unlock darker regions of the psyche which can lead a person into insanity.

The inside of the back cover is a single-page one-panel tale depicting a mythological demon who creates a play so dark that reading it drive a person insane. I thought it would be worth sharing  the accompanying quote.

Hastur, ruling from the lost, mythical city of Carcosa, revels in chaos and madness. None dare read the play written by this malicious entity, for fear of going insane, crying for salvation while Hastur’s soul-shattering stories give none.

Beware, precious reader, for you too will end up as the pitiful wretch seen here—one whose mind has traveled too far into the realm of the King in Yellow, only to be trapped with countless other lost souls!

If you have an interest in the macabre, then this is something for you. But be warned, these tales are not for the timid.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #5

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It’s been nine long months since the last installment in this series. I had pretty much given up on it. But lo and behold, on my last visit to Comic Envy, there was a new Sabrina issue in my folder. It felt like Halloween came early.

It was worth the wait! Sabrina is so dark, so well written and illustrated, so steeped in the occult, there is really nothing that compares to it.

In this installment, Sabrina is placed on trial for alleged sins against the Satanic Church of Night. The trial is presided over by none other than Aleister Crowley. Sabrina is forced to undergo cruel tests to prove her innocence, reminiscent of Puritanical tests administered during the colonial witch trials.

After Sabrina’s “innocence” is established, she undertakes the dark rite of necromancy to raise her dead boyfriend, Harvey. The scenes of the rite are visually chilling and the text is as dark as the imagery.

The witches set about their grim task. First, a symbol representing the gateway between life and death is grooved into the dirt with a snapped-off branch. The branch is symbolic of the Tree of Life, as well as the pole Charon, ferryman of Death, uses to cross the River Styx. Next, a set of the dead person’s clothes is laid out on the ground, over the symbol. So that when the revenant comes back, they may cover their nakedness. Then five candles are lit and positioned around the clothes, so that there is light guiding the dead back to this plane of existence. Then, Sabrina is given the dread Demonomicon, and she recites the diabolical incantation: “…corpus levitas, diablo daminium, mondo viciim…” (The Demonomicon being a sister-book of the unholy Necronomicon.) The infernal dance comes next, and the chanting… “…for you who sleep in stone and clay, heed the call, rise up and obey, pass on through the mortal door, assemble flesh and walk once more…”

The spell works, but there is a very dark twist. Sorry, no spoilers here. You will have to purchase a copy and read it yourself.

One last thing I want to say about this issue. Superimposed over the main story is the enactment of Macbeth by the high school. It works spectacularly! I cannot emphasize enough how well the corresponding scenes connect to and add depth to the overarching storyline. It’s nothing short of brilliance in the genre of graphic horror.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #4

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Black mass, cannibalism, necromancy, bullying: this is without question one of the darkest comics I’ve ever read. But it is not just shock for shock’s sake; it is truly a well-crafted story with layers of complexity. Reading this is like rending open the darkest regions of your psyche and confronting those aspects of humanity that we all want to avoid.

Having witnessed Sabrina’s participation in a Satanic ritual, Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey is horrifically killed and blame is placed on some neighborhood youths. Sabrina begins the process of trying to deal with the psychological torment that plagues her, knowing she is at least in part responsible for what happened, and having to lie to protect herself.

I think we have all done things which haunted us, which is why this comic is so damn visceral. It’s not the events; it’s the emotion that one relates to when reading this. And it’s not a comfortable emotion. But it is important to face your demons and experience the catharsis that results from doing so. This comic will challenge you emotionally and psychologically. You’ve been duly warned.

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Wytches: Issue 4

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This comic continues to deliver quality psychological horror. In this issue, as Sailor’s parents continue searching for her, it seems like their grip on sanity is beginning to slip. The creative team does something that works really well. They splice together fragments of storyline to instill a sense of confusion. As I read through this, I felt like Sailor, trapped in a dark space surrounded by macabre images, struggling to get out, but unable to. All the while, unable to shake the feeling of fear and dread.

I feel like I should be writing more about this issue, but frankly, I am at a loss for words. Probably because, for me, the issue is more about creating a sense of fear as opposed to telling a narrative tale, so while the story is progressing, for me, the story is overshadowed by the feeling that the images and structure of the comic evoke. For me, that’s the real artistry in this graphic series.

If you are following this tale, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Alice Cooper: Issue #4

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This may be my favorite issue so far in this series. Alice travels into the realm of nightmares along with Bart the bully in search of Robbie. As with most bullies, Bart is cocky and arrogant, pretending not to have any fear; but as Alice points out, everyone has fears, and it is when you are asleep that your deep, dark fears surface from your subconscious.

You don’t know the first thing about fear. Not the deep, burrowing kind that give rise to nightmares, anyway. You make somebody afraid enough, you build up a balance in that account. You make them start to contemplate things… It happens unconsciously, at first. They start to fantasize alone, when you’re finished making them afraid. That’s when you realize…that the true power in what someone’s afraid of…is how they use it. You’re a tough kid, Bart. But everybody sleeps. Everybody dreams. And everybody is afraid of something. Which means we all have our own, private… nightmares.

The issue continues by exploring the psychology of fear and how fear manifests in nightmares, all done in conjunction with darkly rich and macabre illustrations. It also touches on bullying and how the victims of bullying can turn to the dark side.

Reading this had a cathartic effect. I was bullied as a kid and I could relate to those feelings of fear, which turn to resentment and anger. I’m also no stranger to nightmares and have had some intense ones over the years. But there is something exhilarating about nightmares. When you awaken, sweating and shaking, you also feel stronger for having stared your deepest fears in the face.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on reading!

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Alice Cooper: Issue #3

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Last night I watched “Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper” at a friend’s house. The film documents the infamous 1973 Billion Dollar Babies tour and is interspersed with comedic shorts. Since I had issue 3 in my stack of things to be read, I couldn’t resist bumping it to the top of the pile.

The comic opens with scenes from a concert at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1975, which stirred memories of going to concerts in the 70’s, a much more Dionysian era.

In times past, this was your scene, your church, your glory. You drove a crowd into a frenzy, nightly. Then called them back to do it again and again. All carefully designed and planned, a delicate mix of the macabre and the theatrical… the dark, and the delightful… all while walking a line between what was real, and what was show… and what was both to a delicate, deliberate degree.

For me, this perfectly captures the experience of an Alice Cooper performance and what defines stage performance as art. It is the blending of the real and the imagined. You have actual individuals on a stage, and we then project our hopes and fears onto them based upon their actions (act being the root of the word). The fact that real people are before us allows us to suspend belief in a way that film can never quite accomplish. It’s why a Shakespeare play is always better than a film adaptation.

So far, I am enjoying this series. The Alice Cooper persona lends itself well to the graphic novel genre. As a bonus, here’s a clip from the film I watched last night. If you’re an Alice Cooper fan, you should check out the film. Rock on!

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Wytches: Issue 2

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Visually, this comic is disturbing. The artwork is something right out of a surrealist nightmare. I don’t know what it is about the colors, the superimposed images, the collage of shapes, but reading it feels like I am in a macabre dream from which I cannot wake up.

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The storyline is working well for me also. It has a basic thread which it is following—the young girl Sailor is pursued by some evil entities that dwell within ancient trees and are connected to a “pledge” which has not yet been clarified. But the story weaves and twists, just as I would expect in a dream. So while the events are basically linear, the story feels disjointed and this is heightened by flashbacks in the characters’ memories.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Suffice to say it is excellent and if you are a fan of surrealist horror, you will love this. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

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Alice Cooper: Issue #2

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Since I was a kid, Alice Cooper has been the soundtrack to my October nights, filling the air with the dark sounds of the macabre and the gothic. Tomorrow night, I will see him once again in concert, and to say I’m excited is quite the understatement. So to get myself in the proper state of mind, I decided to read the latest installment in the Alice Cooper graphic series.

The truth be told, I’m such a huge Alice fan that even if this series sucked I would still read it and like it, and while this new comic is not on par with Neil Gaiman’s Alice Cooper comic series, it is still good.

In this issue, Alice, the Nightmare Lord, strikes a deal with the bullied kid Robbie. Robbie, who had inadvertently bound the dark lord, promises to release Alice if he assists in getting back at the bully who torments him. While all this is transpiring, Lucius Black’s brother, Andronicus, is scheming to recapture the Nightmare Lord. Near the end of the issue, the threads of the tale begin to entwine together and we are left with a nice cliffhanger.

My favorite part of this issue is when Alice manifests to the bully. The surprised teen asks who Alice is, and Alice responds with the following.

Once upon a time, I could live rent free in that mind of yours, stealing your potential… rotting your brain with my special, signature raison d’etat… I stuck a stick of dynamite up rock n’ roll’s ass and pushed the art of the stage show out of the juke joints and the back rooms with morbid theatricality… along with macabre panache! I made the nightmares happen, and I thought it’d last forever.

Tomorrow night, I will once again experience the morbid theatricality and macabre panache which is an Alice Cooper concert. Thanks for stopping by, and may your Halloween be filled with thrills and chills!

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Eerie: Issue #1

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As a youth, I was obsessed with horror and sci-fi comics. I devoured them and while it caused some slight concern with my parents, it ultimately planted the seeds which grew into a love of reading. One of the comics I remember distinctly was Eerie. As all good thing from the past somehow seem to come back, it doesn’t surprise me that Dark Horse Comics has resurrected the Eerie publication. I figured since it is October, it would be the perfect time of the year to pick up an issue and see if it is as good as the ones I remember from my childhood.

This was definitely a step into my past. The issue is hosted by Cousin Eerie, a somewhat jolly, plump creature with a twisted sense of humor. He’s almost like a macabre Falstaff. The issue is comprised of four short vignettes which fall into the sci-fi/horror genre.

The first one, “A Robot for Your Thoughts,” is all about artificial intelligence and robots taking over the world. A man suspects that his family has been replaced by robots, so it’s somewhat reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, but with a nice twist at the end.

The next tale, “Life Species,” is about a team of space explores searching extinct planets for the remains of previous life forms, then examining them to try and understand what happened to them and why the species declined. It reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode, but with a humorous ending. This was probably my favorite story in the issue.

The third tale, “Beta-Eden,” is clearly inspired by the Alien films. It has space explorers encountering an alien race that lays their eggs inside the human host. The spawn then feed on the host. This was probably my least favorite story. It just felt hackneyed and the artwork was not so great.

The last story, “Child,” is a reworking of the Frankenstein archetype. A bereaved scientist decides to construct a child out of parts of the dead. Upon reanimation, he is initially horrified at his creation, but then forms paternal connection which turns to love. What I liked the most about this particular tale was the writing. It was written almost as an epistle, where the father is speaking directly to the child. It works very well and I liked the way the story unfolds.

Overall, I enjoyed this. It was $2.99 well spent and I think the writers capture the campiness of the original publication. I would certainly read more of these.

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