Okay, so this review is a little late for Halloween. But don’t let the fact that the kids are done going trick-or-treating, your costume has beer spilled on it, and the best candy’s already been eaten, prevent you from checking out this really fun horror anthology.
As befits a book with a title like Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave, this collection presents a wide range of stories that take on classic monsters and settings in a modern and intriguing ways. This gives the book a great new/old feel, both modern feeling for new fans and classic feeling for older fans.
“Mark of the Zombie” by Rob E. Brown is a perfect example of that mix of new and old. It features a classic tale of horror and zombies in Haiti, a spooky and intense world that would be familiar to any fan of classic zombie movies. The story is intense and scary and has a fantastic twist ending. But the story also boasts some fantastically spooky artwork, all pulpy intensity and horror, that brings a whole nother level of intensity to the story. It’s kind of hard to explain Brown’s art succinctly. It has a kind of underground vibe to it, all energy and movement, with wonderful wash shading and a wonderful hand-created intensity.
“Eyes of the Prairie” by Derek McCaw and Rafael Navarro is a charmingly spooky Western horror story. Navarro’s light and animated style artwork is the perfect contrast for a tale of frightening creatures and a vengeful ghoul.
“Unpleasant Side Effects” by writer Sam Park and great cartoonist Kerry Gammill, is a tale of truly monstrous creatures created in the name of true love. I loved how Park keeps love at the heart of some truly monstrous creatures (and people!) and delivers a fantastic conclusion. Meanwhile, Gammill’s art is as wonderful as you probably remember it being – all slick and professional and stirring, with an obvious real love for the creepy crawlies.
Maybe the most interesting story in this issue is John Cassaday’s unique story “The Good Doctor.” I’ve never read a story illustrated by Cassaday that had quite this level of uniqueness and fun to it. I love Cassaday’s work, but I can’t remember reading a story with quite the verve and sense of humor that this story has. I really loved the charming character designs of the characters that Cassaday presents – the good doctor has a charmingly unique look to him that I loved.
It’s rare that we reviewers mention editorial work, but it’s obvious that editor-in-chief Kerry Gammill and editor Sam Park worked closely with the creators of all of the stories in this issue. The stories are intelligent and focused. They’re tight tales, cleverly written and drawn, that are exactly as long as they need to be and no longer. There’s a great contrast between wordier and less wordy stories, between stories with slicker art and more underground feeling art. We even get an interesting text piece and a gorgeous back cover by Bruce Timm. This is a really well-assembled comic, and feels like an extremely satisfying package.
I really loved Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave. It’s rare for anthologies to stay consistent from issue to issue and story to story. But based on the great package presented in this first issue, I think Park and Gammill will deliver in future issues.