Since the late 1970s, the slasher subgenre has been a staple of horror movies. With that has come a series of well-worn tropes, including the “final girl.” From Laurie Stode to Sidney Prescott, many have come to expect there to be one good girl that makes it out alive by the end of the story. But what happens once the story is over? And what happens if that final girl decide to fight back? That’s premise behind Tim Seeley’s long-running series Hack/Slash, published originally by Devils Due Productions and, more recently, Image Comics.
The premise of the series is simple enough. Cassie Hack, the survivor of her own slasher movie story, has dedicated her life to travel the world and hunt down kill other slashers. Very early in her “career” she acquires a partner in hulking and often masked Vlad. Let’s get this clear from the beginning: Vlad looks like a killer. A very intimidating, threatening killer in the vein of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, or Leatherface. He’s physically deformed and impossibly strong like those iconic movie villains, but he fights for a righteous cause. It is a subversion of expectations, one of many examples of such that occurs throughout the series. However, Seeley does not do this just for the sake of subversion, but rather to pay homage to the genre which it lovingly parodies.
Like slasher films themselves, Hack/Slash has very little in it’s storytelling that could be considered “deep.” It knows its target audience and what they expect. And so, the series is full of dumb, promiscuous teenagers and bloody kills. Because of the series’ format, Seeley is paired with a wide array of artists that are able to put their own unique spin on the slasher formula. While Seeley certainly contributes his own art to the series, other notable industry vets join in, including Skottie Young, Mike Norton, and Stefano Caselli. The series also features cameos from real life comic creators in the same wink-wink spirit that horror filmmakers and characters have made appearances in other movies or television programs.
Cameos are one thing, but full-blown crossovers are another, and Hack/Slash does it arguably better than anyone. While more focused than the bonkers genre-mixing done over at Archie Comics, Seeley’s series has seen crossovers with the likes of Chucky and Evil Ernie, the former of which adopts that franchise’s horror-comedy leanings. The same can be said for Cassie and Vlad’s meeting with the Zombies vs. Cheerleaders universe. And for a truly deep cut, there is the non-canonical, unofficial crossover with both Dexter and Jason Voorhees. Once again, these crossovers are done out of pure love for the films from which they take cues from, such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman or Freddy vs. Jason. However, they are also done because, to be frank, they are just plain fun.
But like all of the best slasher movies, it is not just the killer that needs to be a standout, but the lead heroine as well. To that end, Cassie Hack is one hell of a horror heroine. The backstory provided in the series’ early issues paints her as the typical repressed, virginal “final girl” of a slasher film. However, that backstory is glimpsed at in pieces, with the main focus who she is today. And who she is (not to be hyperbolic) is a complete and total badass. Much like the characters portrayed by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 or Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018), Cassie has undergone a traumatic experience and militarized herself against any potential evils of the world.
Despite the trauma that Cassie has experienced, she is also fucking hilarious. Throughout the series, she and Vlad partake in a classic comedic dynamic, with the latter being the “straight man” to Cassie’s “foole.” With a few exceptions, most slasher films are a goofy, fun time with buckets of gore. Seeley and his collaborators understand this, giving the reader a combination of disturbing imagery and a healthy dose of humor – sometimes in the same panel. In the “Land of the Lost Toys” story, Cassie hacks away at several Pokemon stand-ins, saying “Come get it you lil’ fuckers! Lil’ Japanese gut bags! Yeah, that’s right! Only good for giving seizures, ain’t ya!” It’s shocking to hear, but laughter-inducing given the ludicrous situation. In the Chucky crossover, she has to team up with the killer doll in order to save Vlad, leading to all sorts of shenanigans. This humor is, for the most part, very self aware. However, Seeley almost always reels it in before it becomes a distraction.
Hack/Slash is the fun, accessible popcorn flick of horror comics. Even as new writers and artists have come on to write or draw the series, the template set by Seeley in those first early issues are so nearly perfect that there hasn’t been an attempt to update or reboot or rehash it. Instead, the mythology continues to build, creating a rich lore with engaging characters worth revisiting again and again.