Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac

This is probably no great victory for the creators, given my penchant for acidic, hypercritical reviews of even the best books on the market, but I'm finally ready to commit to collecting new Hack/Slash trades as they are solicited. So long as creator/writer Tim Seeley steers clear of the "expanded universe" genre mash-ups that put me off earlier samplings of his series, I suspect he will continue to entertainment at his consistent level of quality.

So for, my favorite stories have focused on the titular heroine Cassandra Hack working solo in her formative years as a stalker of ‘80s slasher movie archetypes. Thanks to the one-shot Me Without You, I've also warmed to her deformed sidekick Vlad, who only makes a cameo appearance here. From Dr. Loomis to the Dream Warriors, I’m a lot more interested in this type of material with strong protagonists around, and Hack delivers. This story, heavy on internal monologue in the form of diary entries, makes getting reacquainted with the character a solid read. I suspect Seeley has hung out with his share of Suicide Girl types, since Hack’s voice is true for that generation of strong but damaged grrls. Actress Allison Scagliotti seems to agree, and offered a new introduction.

I’ve seen flashbacks to Hack's origin a few times, so while I kept up with the scenes involving the Lunch Lady killer, I suspect the opening sequence as written could confuse the uninitiated. It was wise to give the first full issue over to the aftermath of Hack’s initial kill, showing her inability to fit into normal society afterward (or even before, really,) and her need to direct her innate hostilities toward positive ends.

The second issue is the true start of the main story, as Hack questions her crusade in the early stages of her first mission, and tries to figure out how exactly a broke sixteen-year-old dropout makes her way in the world as a monster killer. Her first target is Farmer Fig, a rural legend that plays out stories of
the "farmer's daughter" to a grisly end. Hack isn't sure she believes in these legends, if there are truly any more "lunch ladies" out there, and whether she has what it takes to do anything about it if there are. In order to go "undercover" amongst people her age, the typical victims of "slashers," Hack is far more successful at winning friends and influencing people than she ever was just being herself. Finding some kind of happiness and acceptance also makes Hack wonder if the new life she's chosen is really for the best.

One of the things I dig about this series his how fully it just goes for it. A group of girls getting in a fight doesn't result in pulled hair or torn skirts, but bloody mouths with missing teeth and eyes swollen shut. Cassie Hack may only be "Canada legal," and exploiting her nubility is a tad uncomfortable, but I like how the artist also draws her kind of awkward and seemingly not yet comfortable in her movements. This isn't a 24-year-old actress in a pink blouse playing at being a teeny bopper, but more like a real young adult taking on more than she might be able to handle. Tim Seeley still provides covers for the individual issues, and his Cassie Hack is much more polished and highly functioning "indie-professional," but also very much model pretty. The interiors by Daniel Leister aren't meant for Marvel/DC, but in the same sense guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko weren't suited for the Silver Age norm. His characters seem elongated and gawky, his aesthetic a bit too far off the mainstream path, which makes him perfectly suited for horror material of this stripe. From faces to figures to background to storytelling to action to gore, I find no fault in anything Leister offers in this book. He's apparently been the artist on this series since 2009, and I hope that he continues, because this is the perfect marriage of artist and material. If he ends up on Titans or some such shit, I'mona get pissed.

I spent a lot of time discussing the art, but you should note that I'm not interested in picking out a new project for Daniel Leister. I enjoy the art because it so soundly depicts Tim Seeley's involving story. Tack on one of the versions of the Lunch Lady origin, and My First Maniac is ready to be directly adapted into a hit motion picture. Anyone who is a fan of post-'70s horror, specifically but not exclusively the slasher subgenre, will find the book to exemplify the best in those types of shows. Cassie Hack is the final girl/slayer of choice, there's an inventive killer making the rounds, there are complications and twists to keep up interest, fun but developed characters, gratuitous sex, and no small amount of violent action. Seeley brings the goods on Hack/Slash, and there's no need for guilt in the pleasure.

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