I always enjoy ToF when it arrives in my mailbox every couple of months, and issue #39 was no exception. Each issue of this self-published comic presents at least 48 pages of comics, writing and art based around supernatural themes. This issue had a nice mix of content. Each of the several different pieces fit nicely next to the other.
Most stories in this comic are written and drawn by Larry Johnson, but this issue features a comic story and prose story by Larry’s friend Mike Tuz. Tuz did a nice job of plugging into Larry’s complex universe with his two stories. The lead “Lew Brown” story was a clever little time twister tale. (Try saying that five times fast!) Brown is a sort of paranormal investigator in the strange small town of Brookston. I loved how so much of the story took place on the dark, fog-shrouded streets of Brookston. Page five, for instance, is very interesting and atmospheric with the mysterious, half-glimpsed girl dashing through the streets for who knows what purpose. When the readers and Lew stumble into the shop on Hobbs Lane on age six, there’s no way we can be ready for the kind of supernatural chaos found inside. The scene is pure pandemonium as the demons drag Thaddeus Cromwell away to a fate that only the devil knows.
Of course these evil events transcend time and push Lew back and forth in time to follow them. It’s nice how Police Detective Kolowski, another semi-regular character, calmly takes in the events as Lew describes them. That’s so beautifully consistent with the way that Kolowski has been presented in previous issues. He’s seen so much craziness that even more craziness doesn’t even touch him at all. Finally, the story wraps up with a very satisfying ending that brings the story full circle.
The prose story, “The Music Box”, almost felt like a Gothic horror story, with its tale of a bizarre music box shut up in a locked room on a deep, dark mansion. Of course it’s a Gothic horror story with a twist, as Sarah finds herself at the strange shop of Crowe’s Curios to reacquire the mysterious box. I really enjoyed how Tuz didn’t explain what the magic was in the box. In a way the box itself isn’t even important to this story. It’s a McGuffin, a device to set the story in motion, which works really well in this story.
I’ve been reading a lot of Will Eisner lately, and this story reminded me a little of some of his Spirit stories in which Denny Colt barely appeared in the stories. Instead, a one-off character would be the story, with the Spirit’s interaction with them being kind of tangential. Mike does a similar thing here. The real story isn’t Crowe’s Curios, it’s in how Sarah reacts to her exposure to the music box.
The pair that run Crowe’s Curios are a weird gypsy woman named Madame Boogala and her son Goomar, who has a demon living inside him. I really enjoyed seeing the animal-loving side of Goomar in the third story. But the poor guy just can’t make any friend. Even four-legged creatures are driven away by Goomar’s crazy life and demonic alter-ego. Goomar’s curse is getting more and more interesting to me every issue, especially since his mother seems to revel so much in that curse. It definitely felt like Goomar had a spark in her eye as she forced Goomar to turn into then demon Poreskoro. It’s obvious that Madame Boogala wants Goomar to have no life outside of helping her with her life. And Goomar has nowhere else to go. The two pathetic characters are locked together in a never-ending dysfunctional life, which gives all of their stories a unique sort of poignance.
Plus readers get some nice collaborative spot illos, and a really nice back cover. ToF #39 was another really entertaining issue, and is well worth the work of seeking out and ordering from the site listed above.