I was supposed to review this last week, but with Christmas preparation I let it slide by much to my professional chagrin. My apologies to you, my readers, and to the writer of the comic who expected the review last weekend.
Until We Sleep
Until We Sleep #1 is the first comic in a series about who Dracula, the Mummy, the Swamp Thing, and other classic horror movie monsters really are. UWS takes these characters and makes them an elite fighting force known as the Shadowstalkers, chosen to take down the horrors of “Dyspair”, one of the demons of hell.
But the first book doesn’t have any of that. The first book is a prelude of what will come, and it is necessary, but leaves me wishing it had been a few pages longer.
The point: Guys. Trust me on this. The point is to turn monsters into heroes, the series isn’t at that point yet though.
The thought put into this book is the best part. There are angels and demons straight from religion and myth (Abaddon and Death to name a few), and the hierarchy of the after life is a prominent point of interest throughout the book. The writing is good, and the diction and dialect of the angels stands out as being higher, but less emotional, then that of human kind.
The art is great, and the style definitely suits the material.
It’s short. Just as I felt I was getting into the story it ended at what I felt was the climax. I know this is a petty complaint, and one I know will be fixed with the addition of a second book.
Until We Sleep #1 is more of a prologue than anything else, which means it leaves you feeling unsatisfied. This is through no fault of its own, it is a fun story with good art that shows a lot of thought and hard work. It is a great start, and will be mandatory reading if you want to know what’s happening in the next books. Check it out Here
4 comics until the end of book 3!
Falling like Gerald Ford
Yup, it’s another review of a “The Fall” comic, this time issue #5. Y’all should know the drill by now, so I’ll stick to reviewing the book rather than any deeper look at the character himself. As per the norm the book is made up of different stories, so I’ll review them story by story.
I lied. I’m starting with the theme of the book. This issue of the fall seems to be primarily about one thing: Other people who think they can do the Fall’s job just as good as he can. The Fall is seen as a symbol to those whom the law has let down, to those who seek justice for the crimes that have slipped through the laws grasp. This has led to more than a few copy cats and the Fall is learning how to deal with the responsibility of having people look up to him.
Guilty Verdict is about the odd netherworld between law and justice that the Fall lies. It is clear from this story that he exists to uphold the law, that his brand of justice is meant to be dished out on those who have broken the law but have escaped proper punishment. He does not exist to bring moral justice. In this story he is met with a man who has helped bad men escape justice, but he does not punish him stating that he has “committed no crime”. It is a great look deeper into the Fall’s personality. He is not out to decide who has been bad or good, simply who has broken the law and gotten away with it. So the question is: Who’s law is he upholding? What happens if the law changes? Does the Fall change with the law?
Guilty Verdict surprised me, and is a great intro to the book. It takes a surprising twist as the man he is talking to decides that justice is more than the correct application of the law.
Lovetown: Strangers Part 4
Strangers has been going on for a while now. This arc is about a villain known only as the “Salisbury Slasher” who kills young women, ties them up gruesomely, and leaves a not for the Fall. This story is the best out of the book, primarily due to the artist and authors incredible grasp on the comic medium.
It is the art that instantly grabbed me. The tied up, decaying, broken body of a woman with a video tape in her mouth gave me nightmares. The detail is exquisitely morbid, and the way the panels flow together makes you feel like there are no panels at all, that you aren’t reading so much as experiencing.
But what got me is this: the author’s use of narration. Narration is a hard thing to pull off in a visual medium. Comics exist to “show”, not to “tell”, and actions are much more effective when done that way.
The Fall, a close up on his face, narrates what he is watching on the video tape. It is terror inducing. But what makes it even worse is that it is not drawn. The artist, already having proved he is more than capable of drawing the scenes described, takes a backseat to the authors words. The end result is thus: We, as readers, are tasked with imagining it ourselves. But due to the already gruesome art style our imagination takes it one step further. It is terrific, and an example of what the comic medium can accomplish.
See you on the Other Side
Grim Rascal is back with his Fall babies: The children of the Fall. This story focuses on the slowly recovering Russ, who is now more emotionally wounded than physically. This story isn’t about Russ though, it’s about the Fall, and how he’s slowly coming to terms with the consequences of being a symbol, and idol, an icon. He has finally accepted his role as a trend setter, but he is still unsure how to treat his would be sidekicks. The art is fantastic, making it seem like Russ and the Fall are the only two people in the world. The ending will leave you confused, but that’s what “to be continueds” are for.
Voodoo Child: Part 3: Somersault
Voodoo Child focuses on the Fall’s other “sidekick”, a cop who has taken a liking to the Fall’s brand of justice. The story is definitely building up to a boiling point, and this one serves the same purpose as many of the others in this book: to make the Fall human. The fall is showing compassion, more complex ideologies, and in this story he even shows the capacity to be embarrassed. This story is necessary in humanizing the fall, making him more relateable, without ruining the enigmatic personality.
What does Elvis Say TO YOU in the bathroom
This is also a sort of part two, featuring a pumpkin headed man from the previous comic who is also imitating the Fall. It shows the first of his imitators to take the call to “justice” seriously, not as a way to make the city better, but as a way of appeasing the notion of justice. And he is instantly unlikable for it. I look forward to seeing how the Fall deals with an imitator who is not inherently a good person.
Enemy of my Enemy
The fall takes on two groups of thugs at once! And wins! The art is fun and fast, and there is one panel with shattered glass that is very well done. It’s not deep, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s the Fall doing what the Fall does best. Not dealing with serial killers, not dealing with crazy attorneys, or his mentally unstable sidekicks. He’s dealing with simple bad guys who need a simple beating.
Some of the stories in this one are the best I’ve seen yet in the Fall. The art is fantastic, fun, and a blend of dark or cartoonish as is the mark of all Fall comics. It’s a fun read, and definitely a good addition to the burgeoning anti-hero’s universe.
5 comics till book 3 is done! So excited!
6 more comics till book 3 is done! And boy, does book 4 have some awesome stuff planned.
How I review
After reading a few of the comics I have to review soon, including today’s special “A Taste for Killing”, I’ve realized something. I am overly harsh on some comics, especially when I feel they haven’t given me enough of the story to review. This has caused some people to accuse me of not liking kid friendly comics and praising adult comics, but I would like to take a moment to defend myself. I apologize to Nikkol Jelenic for putting off her review for a paragraph or two.
Many of the comics I have reviewed negatively (many I do not post for reasons I will explain later) I do because I don’t feel like they deliver what they promise. Be it in length (I have turned away some, asking that they come back when they have over 30 pages for me to review), substance, or quality I judge much of a book on whether or not it delivers on its promise, be it the books claim, the authors claim, or what I think to be the claim. So, from now on, I will make sure to state what I think the comics “promise” is, and whether or not I believe they deliver.
A Taste for Killing
Do I have to say this comic is Not Safe for Work? It is. Blood, gore, nudity, the works. Nikkol Jelenic is in her prime where this book’s art is concerned, and that art fills in the gaps that the abrupt nature of the stories creates. Her books promise? To shock or scare you with gruesome, gory scenes. Boy does it deliver.
There’s No Such Thing
TNST is the first story in the book, and it begins like a horror film. A hot, blonde girl has car issues in the middle of the night and two red necks pick her up in their pick up truck. There is only one flaw in the story that gives me pause, and that is a bad transition. There is a scene that jumps from one location to the next and it takes a second to realize what happened. It’s not a long second, but it is a second that I wasn’t absorbed in the flow. Without this transition the story is rightfully shocking, and follows Jelenic’s trademark trend of making humans more monsters than the monstrosities that destroy them. Upon a second reading, with the transition in mind, it is a morbidly delightful scenario.
Hair of the Dog
There was one piece of art in TNST that struck me as horrid. Let me clarify. It shocked me and looking at it made me uncomfortable. Hair of the Dog has multiple pieces. The story is a little more confusing, and leads to some “What did I just read” moments, but the art is bloody and macabre. Jelenic’s trademark is still there, as well as another theme that begins to show which I will elaborate upon later.
There are two pages of prose at the end of the comic, a story on each page, that are pieces of flash fiction written by Leo Cherry and Brian Spicer, as well as three pin-ups of werewolves by Richard Bonk, Brandon Spicer, and Josh Shockley. These are all fine additions to the book, and certainly don’t detract from the experience. The books theme also stays for the most part in the two pieces of prose.
Y’all know I love me some deep thought, so here goes. Jelenic is one of the talented hands that PLB comics calls upon, so I am partially familiar with her work, which is why I refer to her “trademark”. In the story she illustrated for PLB’s latest Halloween issue, which she did not write, she did do a fantastic job of illustrating the evil humans to be just as terrifying as the monster. Her own stories are even more so. Every story in the book follows along one theme: Humans are the real monsters. Be they red necks, hunters, bikers, they are the ones who are actively seeking out others to harm, the monsters are the ones who stop them.
Another trend in this book is the use of women as bait. A Taste for Killing uses women as man’s fatal flaw, something he cannot resist and yet wishes to destroy. In the end, whether he tries to resist, or whether he tries to destroy, the women are the creatures who destroy him.
It is a skill to be able to tell a story in 6 to 10 pages. There are always unanswered questions, there is always more to say, the hard part is knowing if you have said enough. A Taste for Killing isn’t about making you afraid, it’s about shocking you. Fear takes time, shock is a visceral, instant response to a scenario or picture. The stories build just enough up that you are satisfied to see it torn down. The story is satisfying because you learn enough to be glad when someone gets what is coming to them. The art is spectacular. I found myself staring at the adornments of the hunter’s cottage in “Hair of the Dog” and thinking, “That is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.” It is well worth a look if you are inclined towards dark, macabre, and gory. You can find it and more Here