Friday, November 2, 2012

Wednesday Is Undead & Undressed For All I Care #162

Black Kiss 2 #1
Night of the Living Dead: Day of the Undead
Revival #2
Revival #3

Black Kiss 2 #1 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
Despite buying my fair share of porno/hentai comics in the '90s, I managed to miss Thick Black Kiss, not to mention the smaller trades and single issues. In fact, I've read my fair share of Howard Chaykin, but managed to miss all the First Comics stuff for which he's been most praised. Those admissions having been made, I've never really been wowed by Chaykin's writing, his preferred depiction of the ladies aren't mine, and long form narratives with pornographic content tend to frustrate both the intellect and the libido. I wasn't exactly going into this sequel with high hopes.

I didn't really "get" this issue, but I did enjoy it (but not enjoy enjoy.) There's some quaint old-timey bigotry during rude acts, and men prove as susceptible to tentacle rape as the girl for a nice change of pace. You can see where Black Kiss probably suckled Quinn & Vigil's Faust, and how latter day depredations have likely nurtured Chaykin's current offenses. I really do feel like I'm missing something for having skipped the first volume-- like this is a prequel where I understand what's happening at the most essential level, but everyone's winking over my shoulders. Halfway through, we get an '80s sex comedy redressed for the Titanic, plus boy-rape as character motivation in a gender-bend on '70s tropes. It was interesting enough of a tease that I'd consider a heavily discounted trade, but it's not money enough for me to pony up on the high end.

Night of the Living Dead: Day of the Undead (Avatar, 2012, $2.99)
This was solicited as a three buck graphic novel, which is misleading. It's 64 pages of short story reprint material and squarebound, which sounds like an old "Prestige Format" annual to me. Given that Avatar usually sells a standard comic for $4, and their substantial trades break the twenty dollar barrier, I'll take it for whatever it is.

Movie co-writer John Russo offers "Just A Girl," which is adapted into the comics format by Mike Wolfer, who is the writer and artist of the other two stories presented here. The finished art is by Edison George, which is more realist but less stylized than Wolfer while in the same wheelhouse. "Girl" takes the iconic child from the seminal film and gives Karen Cooper an overwrought origin. I get that Harry was no picnic as a father, but he was a common controlling asshole in the movie. Here, he and wife Helen are so thoroughly demonized, that subscribing to its assertions takes away from the transgressive horror the original work traded in. The subtext of the relationship in 1968 was America's children turning on and devouring their parents-- the corruption and disintegration of the nuclear family. The layers of ham-fisted psychobabble here turn Karen into Rorschach, seeking divine retribution against her Dickensian upbringing. It's expanded universe drivel, as harmful a parasite on the franchise as John Russo himself.

Wolfer's tale from a 2011 Annual delivers a text opening and the premise that rather than the global apocalypse of the Romero movies, Avatar's Night series are about random isolated outbreaks that are dealt with like unnatural disasters. A couple of traveling hippies get stuck in a house with ruthless rednecks, shit gets fucked up, and then there's a swift, violent, pat resolution. Now, the first story had some zombie nudity that played with a brief, minor episode of naked flesh in the film. This second story goes out of its way to show T&A, living and undead, often with repugnant surroundings. Incidental nudity can be jarring in this setting, but when it's blatantly exploitative, it simply heightens my qualms with a lackluster, LCD story.

Wolfer's final story, "Do Not Open Until Christmas" from a Holiday Special, was the best of the bunch. Like Night, it takes place in a period long past, but because it was contemporary in its time, it doesn't wallow in fashion fetishism. Sideburns and thick rimmed glasses date the piece, but it's more period verisimilitude than nostalgia run rampant. This is also very much an EC horror tale with punishing morals, flavored more like the '70s British films than the comics, which lends a welcome structure previously lacking. There's more sex here than ever, a staple of Wolfer's CV, but the plot supports the titillation. This adds potency, since the lovemaking creates vulnerability which invites terror. For the price, this was a peachy collection, but that last treat was the real cherry on top.

Revival #2 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
I had a multiple month gap between reading the first and second issues of this book, which isn't a good idea for a tightly wound supernatural neo-noir in the early stages of introducing characters and situations. Still, it's small town cops trying to deal with quasi-zombies, which is easier to keep a handle on. I haven't plugged into anyone yet, which is about par for a mystery, rather than survivalist horror with a proxy POV. I do like Abel, the shitbag hired hand for paranormal dealings, who fits perfectly into this scenario. I also dig the hardboiled sexual politics, and the increasingly fucked psychology of Em. I think I'd rather follow this in chunks rather than monthly though, as it's easy to miss details as the memory fogs with time.

Revival #3 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
Another nasty issue, filling in details with one hand while obfuscating with the other. The characters introduced last issue are fleshed out as whole new sides of town come into play. The balance was a bit off though, making this the least satisfying issue so far. I'm continuing to have trouble with Mike Norton's art as well. It's not like when I read the first trade collection of Tony Moore's Walking Dead, and then slammed into Charlie Adlard's debut issue. It was more like when I went back years later to that trade, and realized Moore could have never gotten as deep, dark and gritty as Adlard. Norton's art is very pretty and friendly, which is a bad combination for noir and completely cushions any horror elements. I very much want to look at Norton's lovely art and swell storytelling, but it is at cross purposes with the story, because it's so light where it needs to be taunt. There's whole sequence where a naked old lady zombie is bleeding out her orifices and threatening newborns, but the art registers "safe." The book is doing well and co-owned, so I don't see Norton going anywhere. Tom Seeley is quite a writerly writer here for a guy most still think of as an artist. I plan to stick around for a while, but I have this nagging feeling this dissonance between story and presentation will gnaw at my investment over time.

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