What Hell May Come

WHAT HELL MAY COME by Rex Hurst (Crystal Lake Publishing, June 12 2020 release date) 286 pages, paperback. ISBN # 978 1646693092. Kindle edition ASIN # B088XFMLP3. There’s an author’s note preceding the prologue wherein writer Rex Hurst refers to the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s and the conspiracy theories back then of devil cults… Continue reading What Hell May Come

The Girl In The Video

THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO by Michael David Wilson (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, April 28, 2020) Paperback, 100 pages. ISBN # 978-1-943720-43-9 THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO is an edge of the seat thriller, very cinematic in tone.  This fast-paced, fluid novella transports readers on a journey of heightened apprehension and paranoia. While Michael David… Continue reading The Girl In The Video

Book Review: SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Saville

SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Savile (Horrific Tales Publishing, April 16, 2020) Hardcover, 128 pages.  ISBN-10: 1910283258 ISBN-13: 978-1910283257  Kindle edition ASIN # B0838K7FCS It’s the summer of 1986, and a pleasant family vacation that promised beach-combing, swimming and skinny dippy, amusement arcades, and first loves delivers something unexpected and dreadful. I love a good opening… Continue reading Book Review: SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Saville

Comics Review: Money Shot

Volume 1 trade paperback.

MONEY SHOT Volume 1 by Tim Seeley, writer and Rebekah Isaacs, artist. (Vault Comics, April 2020) Trade paperback, 160 pages. ISBN # 1939424607 / 9781939424600.        If you’re offended by explicit material, don’t pick this one up. Mature, adult readers only.      The blurb on the back cover tells a lot, but… Continue reading Comics Review: Money Shot

Review: Arterial Bloom

horror short stories

     ARTERIAL BLOOM edited by Mercedes M. Yardley (Crystal Lake Publishing, March 22, 2020)  Paperback, 232 pages. ISBN #1646693108 / 9781646693108   When I want to read an above average anthology of short stories, Crystal Lake Publishing rarely disappoints. ARTERIAL BLOOM is no exception.     I was equally pleased to see that ARTERIAL BLOOM… Continue reading Review: Arterial Bloom

Comics Review: SINK #6, a survival tale

ART: Stunning. Too good to glance over, so much detail. You’ll be forced to examine closely or miss the point of the story. But you’ll want to see it, even though you know you should look away. 

BUBBA HO-TEP AND THE COSMIC BLOOD-SUCKERS #1 (IDW Publishing, May 16 release date) Writer:  Joshua Jabcuga.  Artist: Tadd Galusha. Colorist: Ryan Hill.  Letterer: Tom B. Long.

If you’re a fan of either BUBBA HO-TEP, the weird fiction tale penned by Texas icon Joe R. Lansdale, or BUBBA HO-TEP the weird grind house movie directed by cult favorite Don Coscarelli – – – then you’ll want to check out the BUBBA HO-TEP AND THE COSMIC BLOOD-SUCKERS comic. If you’re unfamiliar with both of those antecedents, then pick up the comic and give it a try-out.  If you enjoy it, then make sure to read the original story and watch the movie. You’re going to be thrilled and entertained beyond anything the comic delivers. 

     I’m a big fan of both the printed story and the movie, but not as sure about the comic. While it makes a noble effort to stay true to the original spirit and maintain the wackiness of the original, it falls short and disappoints.  I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve finished the saga, but at this point I have a few objections. 

     My main objection is how the comic departs from the original story and in doing so, in my opinion, takes some of the specialness away.

    Lansdale’s original story plays with the urban legend about Elvis sitings and reveals how The King never died.  The real Elvis Presley grew tired of his life and longed to go back to his roots, singing and performing in small clubs.  So he switches places with a skilled Elvis impersonator.  It’s the impersonator who, years later, dies while sitting on the toilet at Graceland. 

     The real Elvis becomes the best Elvis impersonator ever, but still never comes close to the notoriety or riches he once enjoyed. He lives in obscurity in a trailer park until, in declining health, he falls from the stage and breaks his hip.  He ends his days in a rundown nursing home.  There he meets a black man who says he’s the real John F. Kennedy.  Strange things begin to occur at the nursing home, and Elvis and JFK work together to take down the Egyptian mummy who roams the halls at night and steals souls of the residents. 

     Coscarelli’s film brought the craziness of the story to a vibrant visualization, playing on B-movie and horror film tropes, with some remarkable performances from Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK.  Their characters were just exploring their commonality and developing a friendship when the menace interrupted them. Their bumbling and inexperienced attempts to confront the terror were part of the charm of both story and film. 

     In BUBBA HO-TEP AND THE COSMIC BLOOD-SUCKERS the story takes place long before the nursing home events, in an earlier time before the real Elvis traded places with his imitator. Comic writer Joshua Jabcuga removes the charm when he postulates the notion that Elvis was an experienced monster hunter, having served in this capacity under the thrall of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, for years. That means that when Elvis met Bubba Ho-Tep he was a veteran of these conflicts and neither surprised nor inept.  Way to muck up the mythology, Jabcuga.

    When the development of a comic series was originally announced by IDW in 2017, Lansdale was mentioned as a co-writer. His name is strangely absent from the credits page. I wonder why.

   In addition, Bubba Ho-Tep was the name referring to the ancient monster. I seriously doubt that the mummy is going to step in and play a role in this comic, but his name is right up front in the title. Of course, fans of the original might not make the same association if the book was titled REAL ELVIS VERSUS THE COSMIC BLOOD-SUCKERS.

   Credit Jabcuga for introducing some weirdness of his own to this story.  However, his additions are just odd and wacky and lack the down-home charm that exudes through Lansdale’s original story.  Lansdale is a veteran story-teller whose style is easy to imitate but harder to duplicate.  Regardless of the genre he writes in, reading Lansdale is akin to sitting on the porch next to Grandpa in his rocking chair while he spins a favorite yarn of days gone by.  Fascinated and riveted at the same time. 

     In Jabcuga’s world, Colonel Parker runs a covert agency employed by the government to investigate otherworldly threats.  President Nixon gives him the “guess and find” mission of uncovering vampires in human guise who can only be seen through 3-D glasses. Parker gets around the Louisiana swamps on these missions via a huge steamboat crewed by zombies enslaved to him. Elvis has to go along with this because Parker holds his beloved mother’s soul in thrall. Elvis and his good ole boy bodyguard, Johnny Smack, get paired up with a blind man, a femme fatale, the descendent of John Henry, and a lumberjack-dressed logistics expert named Jack. 

   As crazy as the original Bubba Ho-Tep story was, you couldn’t read it without smiling.  Jabcuga does his best to match the craziness, but he can’t equal the humor as much as he tries.  The comic is weird, but it’s not very funny.  

     However, there were a few scenes that made me chuckle.  In the opening story, a homeless man sneaks into a Mississippi junkyard.  As he approaches the chain-link fence, the obligatory Beware Of Dog sign is displayed. Alongside it are two more signs.  One has a logo of a gun with the message “We Don’t Call 911.”  The other sign says “Can you make the fence in 6 seconds? The dog can.”

   Later, Elvis is having a conversation with the femme fatale, explaining why he’s allowing Parker to dominate his time and use him this way.  She remarks that she now understands “why the hit records stopped and you made all the bad movies.”

 

  RATING SYSTEM

STORY: Needs to win me over. Crazy alone won’t do it. 1.5 POINTS

ART: No quibbles here. The art is great and very appropriate to the story, in a pre-Comics Code EC Tales From The Crypt way.  2.5 POINTS

COVER: Not excited by the fat Elvis. But that Tim Truman double cover is a winner.  1 POINT.

READ AGAIN? I might, after I check out the rest of the story. But otherwise it’s not necessary, and somewhat painful to Lansdale fans. 0 POINTS

RECOMMEND? To fans of Bubba Ho-Tep: if you don’t check it out, you’ll always be wondering about it.  Spend a little on the first issue and go from there.  1/2 POINT. 

TOTAL RATING: 5.5 POINTS. Only for the dedicated or curious.

Cover A

HER INFERNAL DESCENT #1 of 5 (Aftershock Comics, April 18 2018 release date) Writers:  Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson.  Artist:  Kyle Charles.  Colorist:  Dee Cunniffe.  Letterer:  Ryan Ferrier.  Rating: 12+

       Writers Nadler and Thompson will guide us though a detailed journey into Hell in the pages of the HER INFERNAL DESCENT mini-series, using Dante’s Inferno as criterion. That’s both ambitious and bold!

     Dante’s Inferno is the opening part of 14th Century epic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  It details the journey of Dante through hell with the ancient Roman poet Virgil as guide.  Dante explores the nine concentric circles of torment (as alluded to on Issue #1’s cover) that comprise the depths of Hell. 

 Co-writer Lonnie Nadler expanded on the concept during an earlier interview on the Comics Crusaders website:  “We really took a deep dive into Dante’s work and thought about how we could make this hellish landscape of sin relevant in a world where traditional, biblical sins have become commonplace.”  The interview goes on to hint at some of the things they intend to incorporate in their modern update of Dante’s Inferno: social media, online dating, sexuality, politics, religion, and self-gratification to name just a few. Seems to me to be very appropriate stand-ins for the original nine circles (Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery). It will be interesting to see how these fit in and compare. 

Issue #1 begins by introducing us to the main character, an elderly woman (not identified by name) distraught over the unexplained loss of her family. She struggles to cope and continue on with her life. Her lonely home reflects her mood: dead plants on a table cluttered by mail, papers, unfinished novels, notebooks, and cards of condolence. The kitchen is a total mess, littered with half-eaten meals and unwashed dishes.  The front room is nearly filled to capacity with moving boxes. The art, perfectly detailed in nine-panel pages, tells us all we need to know with very few captions.  She’s lost without her family. 

     As she climbs the ladder into an attic full of memories, we get a glimpse of the images going through her mind. Apparently, she’s missing a husband, twin boys, and an infant. Her husband appears to be middle-aged, much younger than she appears.  Has their absence aged her that quickly?  And what is the vision of the witch from The Wizard of Oz doing inside her thoughts?

Waiting for her in the attic is the ghost of English Romantic period poet and artist William Blake (Songs of Innocence), who speaks only in rhymes and makes her an offer: journey through Hell’s nine circles and be re-united with her family. It doesn’t take long before she accepts, a doorway materializes, and she and Blake step through it. 

  Strange colors and sights outline their forward progress, with odd twisted homes that appear inspired by graphic artist M.C. Escher and three-dimensional pathways. The woman comments upon the weird, surreal surroundings and Blake responds: “Dear, this is merely the beginning. The walls between worlds are now thinning.”

   So begins a long journey to the first circle, Limbo, including a boat ride with a grim and grumpy Charon, Death’s ferryman of legend. But not before the woman sees a vision of a van backing out of a driveway with a family inside (that vaguely resembles her own) and traveling off into the distance before she can catch up to them.  (Is this hinting at the event that led to their absence, a possible auto accident or catastrophe they encountered?) 

Limbo is inhabited by the souls of ancient philosophers and authors (Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Poe, Shakespeare, Milton).  Perhaps their vanity has kept them frozen in place there as they pepper the woman with questions, wondering if their works are still being studied. The woman with no name loses Blake along the way and comes face to face with Judge K  as the book ends.

Cover B

 RATING SYSTEM

STORY: Ambitious, captivating, and erudite. Above average in its theme and scope. I’m just having a little trouble completely empathizing with the main character. Perhaps a name and a clear idea of how she lost her family will help to bolster that. 2.5 POINTS

ART: Great layouts by Charles. The use of nine panel pages followed by five panoramic panel pages allows the story to show, not tell, what a surreal setting this occurs in. Facial expressions are very revealing on all the characters. The colors and choices of hues by Cunniffe help create the otherworldly atmosphere.  2.5 POINTS

COVER: Pull the reader in and give a great indication of what the contents hold in store.  2 POINTS

READ AGAIN? You need more than one reading to catch all the pop culture characters references dropped into the story.  Jimi Hendrix shows up in Limbo, quoting an appropriate line from Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower.  1 POINT.

RECOMMEND? Absolutely.  I think this is only going to get better. We can always use more literary writers in comics to join the elite company of Moore, Gaiman, Milligan, Carey and others.  1 POINT.

TOTAL RATING: 9 POINTS. As near perfect as it gets. Don’t pass it up.