The last time I reviewed Dark Horse’s revitalized Creepy, the anthology work was struggling to find its groove, sticking mainly to entries from veteran horror writers like Joe R. Lansdale and contemporary artists whose aesthetic recalls but isn’t in debt to the classic EC/Warren style, like Nathan Fox and Jason Shawn Alexander. In that time, Creepy has started to restructure itself as a more underground affair, with appearances by Rick Geary and Colleen Coover alongside more classically oriented Warren artists like Kelley Jones and Bernie Wrightson, whose masterful “Jenifer” gets the reissue treatment here.
Though Creepy is still a ways away from meeting the heights of its source material, this issue fares slightly better than what’s preceded it, and the twist of using Geary and Coover for a horror anthology is an interesting one that could help Creepy better establish its personality.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Colleen Coover
Creepy #8 begins with Jeff Parker and Colleen Coover’s “Nineteen,” a quick, twisty story that is perhaps a little too brief for its own good. Coover’s art is in full on ’50s Playboy mode here, with sharp, angular characters and highly minimalist but quite effective framing. Parker’s script is standard Creepy fare, concerning the way our desires and wishes for convenient solutions to complicated problems can cause us untold misery; in this particular instance, it all goes down in a brothel that isn’t quite what it seems.
Though plenty happens in the story, it seems to end before it really begins. Coover’s aesthetic is so alluring that it’s difficult not to get completely immersed in it and want to learn more about the story being told. But if the biggest problem with a story is that you didn’t want it to end, well, that’s not much of a problem, is it?
“The Lurking Fate That Came to Lovecraft Part 1”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Kelley Jones
Though it comes from two creators who are by no means strangers to horror comics, Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ “The Lurking Fate That Came to Lovecraft Part 1” suffers from the opposite problem of “Nineteen,” as it takes too long to get its point across and stretches itself out at as much as possible. Granted, part of the issue here is that Lovecraft’s writing itself suffers from the same qualities, and in a story about Lovecraft’s perceived descent into madness, it’s only natural to let the writer’s heavy vocabulary do its thing. But in part one of this story, there simply doesn’t seem to be enough plot to justify its running length, as it is pretty much panel after panel of Lovecraft describing his horrific visions and nightmares and Jones illustrating them for us as well; it’s the epitome of “show, don’t tell” and a problem Moench has long had an issue with.
But luckily, Jones’ art is superb and the Lovecraftian horrors he’s given give him ample room to show off his abilities. This is a story that you may as well tune out the text for entirely and focus instead on the art, particularly because of how well Jones brings the material to terrifying life.
Writer: Rick Geary
Artist: Rick Geary
Rick Geary’s “The Mausoleum” is — excepting “Jenifer,” which has an unfair advantage — the clear MVP of Creepy #8, particularly in the way it marries Geary’s memoir style to EC’s twist heavy horror, resulting in what I’d like to call, for lack of a better phrase, EC verite. Geary is unlikely to be the first name that would pop into anyone’s heads when thinking of who to draft for a 21st century Creepy, but he more than proves his worth here. Part dark romantic comedy (no, seriously), part somber ghost story, “The Mausoleum” is the only story collected here that feels genuinely new and unique. Much of that is because of Geary’s singular voice, which is never sacrificed or muted here in order to better fit the parameters of the anthology. Instead, Geary twists the EC-style to his purposes, narrowing it down to a narrative aesthetic based on bleak comedy, clever twists and a moral message.
Initially beginning like a biographical comic, “The Mausoleum” first concerns a young man dealing with the demolition of the mausoleum his parents have been at rest in for some time, which is to be replaced by a new, state of the art facility. He finds, to his surprise, that he actually quite enjoys the new facility and even meets someone there, a concierge with whom the protagonist has “a mutual interest in the subject of death,” deadpanning that “she was quite dedicated to her work.” Geary, as always, has impeccable comedic timing, using his frames to make visual punchlines, eliminating all but the most important elements from the panels. Geary’s story is alternatel
y sweet and contemplative, reflecting on the way we individually cope with the inevitability of death and our uncertainty of what may or may not follow it. It’d be a standout in any collection, but within the pages of this edition of Creepy it makes the issue itself more than worth its cover price.
Writers: Dan Braun
Artist: Kyle Baker
And once again, Dan Braun’s “lore” segment is the bottom of the barrel. I continue to be baffled by the inclusion of this segment, since it never seems to add anything and detracts from the experience of the issue. Here, we get an awkward, seemingly half-assed music trivia session from Braun, with a completely wasted assist from the always incredible Kyle Baker. We learn about obscure incidents like that time some guy named Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat and are reminded that there exist groups like Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cramps who — surprise! — used horror in their stage shows and overall image. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to point out the longstanding shared history between horror and music, but “Loathsome Lore” is presented in such a blindingly obvious and pointless fashion that it defeats the purpose. No real insight is shared and Braun doesn’t go to any lengths to make a statement about that relationship other than “hey, it exists!” As it stands, these lore segments come across as filler, necessary to flesh out page counts but it’s depressing that artists like Baker are brought on to do them; surely if you have such immensely talented creators providing the illustrations, you can find something more worthwhile for them to illustrate?
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Bernie Wrightson
If you’ve never experienced Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson’s “Jenifer,” then this issue is a must buy. Rightly regarded as one of Wrightson’s crowning achievements as an artist, and Jones best contribution to the Warren magazines, “Jenifer” is the kind of story that put Creepy on the map and helped revitalize interest in horror comics. It’s the type of story that you’re better off entering into with little previous knowledge, since Jones’ script is a phenomenal array of twists and turns that pit sympathy against survival and practicality and force the reader to ask whether being a good Samaritan is always a good idea.
Of course, it’s also a double edged sword, because it again reminds readers just how far ahead the original Creepy is from its modern day successor. But conveniently, Dark Horse has placed a house ad for their recent collection of Bernie Wrightston’s best Creepy and Eerie material directly after, just in case you hadn’t bought that must own work yet and “Jenifer” reminded you that you need to get on that.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.