I can't remember the last time a comic legitimately scared me. I love horror comics, but most of them are cool fun rather than scary. Few comic books actually make me squinch when I turn a page, or shudder at the sheer grotesquery on display. Ragemoor #4 did just that.
Ragemoor is comics horror at its finest. Jan Strnad and Richard Corben have been slowly building to this stunning climax for four issues now, with each issue piling more and more weirdness on the readers, removing any foundation of sanity until you are adrift in a world where anything can happen and does. They have tapped into some perfect blend of Poe, Lovecraft and 1950s monster chiller horror theater that captures the best elements without coming off as cheesy or contrived.
This final issue is spectacular. When I interviewed Strnad and Corben, they promised that the whole series would come to a satisfying conclusion, and that it wasn't just an unending parade of the bizarre. I wondered if they were going to be able to pull it off, and now I know. Well done, gentlemen. Issue #4 is more than I could have asked for.
I can't really go into the story details of Ragemoor #4, because it is something that you have to experience for yourself. All of the amazing scenes, all of the climaxes (and there are several) are spoilers that would ruin the story. All I can say is that when you get to Page 20 or so, be ready to drop the comic and run. The implications of that scene, as well as the melancholy sadness that Richard Corben drew it with, are still giving me chills when I remember it for this review.
And Richard Corben's art. Man, the guy just gets better and better. There is no plateau. Corben is like an aged single malt whisky, with depth and maturity added by years. With each new comic, hell with each new panel of each new comic, he delivers something new and unique and beautiful that can't be matched by any other artist. He doesn't need to sign his name to his work, his work is his signature. And his work on Ragemoor is Corben at his best.
One thing; I think most readers of Ragemoor are going to wait for the collected edition which will eventually come out. Heck, I normally would. For a four-issue series like this, the collected edition often has behind the scenes material, sketches, notes, and all sorts of things that make it a better buy than picking up the issues as they come out.
But I think reading Ragemoor in the collected edition is missing out.This series really made me feel the power of a serial. Each issue, released a month apart, left me engaged but wondering what the hell was going on. The tension built slowly, an issue at a time, and Ragemoor became one of the comics I was most looking forward to every month, because I wanted to know what the hell was going on. And then I get to this issue, this spectacular capstone that turns it all up to 11, and the payoff is all the greater because I have waited so long. Being able to just flip through the whole book in 30 minutes or so, you will lose that tension and slow tease.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.