More graphic thrills and spills.
Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse – Necromancer
Written by Laurell K. Hamilton & Jess Ruffner, illustrated by Ron Lim
This is the second part of a three part adaptation of The Laughing Corpse, the second novel in Laurell K. Hamilton’s series chronicling the adventures of vampire hunter and necromancer Anita Blake. I haven’t read the book and so can’t say how faithful it is to the source material, but like many mid-point works it has about it a feel of manoeuvring the pieces. Anita has just dispatched a zombie sent to kill her when we enter the story, and at the end you have a sense of mayhem about to erupt, but during the 120 odd pages of this book about the only action we get is Anita and a friend tackling a couple of thugs sent to ‘bring them in’. The rest in the main is jaw jaw – Anita joking with cops; Anita interacting with the Vampire King of New Orleans, who wants her as a lover/servant; Anita interrogating a prostitute who has information on the millionaire targeting her; Anita preparing to take on the voodoo queen with a grudge against her and a rival necromancer. It’s all intriguing stuff and moves the story along nicely, with the author getting her pieces in place for the end game, and the characters are interesting and fully rounded, but at the same time it foreshadows the bloat that, in my opinion, befell later books in this series, and at the end you don’t really feel like you’re any further forward, you just know more about the players but nothing more about the nature of the game. The artwork is okay without being striking, the colour scheme capturing perfectly the story’s mix of glamour and sleaze, and Lim capturing the characters with a good deal of competency, but nothing to really excite the reader. Overall this is just a mildly entertaining way to pass the time, which I would probably have enjoyed a whole lot more if I’d read the omnibus volume containing the whole story. My bad.
Written by Adam Beechen, illustrated by Trevor Hairsine
Now here’s an interesting concept. If you’ve ever thought that there’s an area of overlap between super hero groups and rock bands, each with their larger than life characters, clashing egos and artistic differences, then writer Beechen takes that idea and runs with it. The Clap are the biggest rock band in the world but touring and playing concerts is just a front for their real work – each member of the band has a super power making them ‘the most sought-after meta-human assassination unit on the black market’. Imagine the Batman as Bruce Springsteen rather than Wayne, and willing to kill for money. Money is at the heart of it all and the need to pay off substantial debts brings the band to a festival where they must play against rival rock bands, one of whom is in a similar (non-musical) line of work and after the same target as The Clap. With added complications via band member rivalries/affairs and managerial treachery, it is as wacky and over the top and deliciously entertaining as it sounds. Hairsine’s artwork, with its muted colours and gritty feel, captures perfectly the mode of the piece, and the story races along at a breathtaking pace, cranking up the tension to the max. I absolutely loved it, and I am looking at people like The Edge and Flea in an entirely new light now and wondering what it is they’re not telling us.
Bram Stoker’s Death Ship
Written by Gary Gerani, illustrated by Stuart Sayger
It’s subtitled ‘Dracula’s Voyage to England’, and that tells you about all you need to know about the plot. Adapted from a minor section of Stoker’s classic novel, the subject of this story is the vessel Demeter’s voyage from Transylvania to England with its unholy stowaway, the vampire emerging at night to prey on the crew, driving them mad with his predations. Gerani does his best with the material, fleshing out the main characters – thuggish first mate Anatole, cabin boy Yuri, the venerable Captain – and painstakingly delineating that something has gone horribly wrong on this voyage, the sense of the natural world out of sorts slowly giving way to paranoia, terror and the nightmarish. Also as a minor subtext, there is the clash of sensuality and hedonism with spirituality, seen in the attitudes of certain crew members. Despite all that, Gerani can’t get past the fact that for anyone familiar with Stoker’s work nothing here will come as any surprise, and he has very limited scope to bring anything new to the table. The real appeal of the book lies in the artwork, with its striking use of the panel structure, and moody use of colour. Each and every page has images that capture the imagination, bringing to vibrant life the fog bound fate of the ship, so that you can almost hear the roar of the waves and the sails straining against the wind (or lack thereof). It is a powerful evocation of Stoker’s vision, one that does him proud. By way of bonus material we have Gerani talking about his ideas for the book and cinematic adaptations of the voyage, and a gallery of character portraits by cover artist Cliff Nielsen that are simply stunning, or to resort to cliché, worth the price of admission alone.
Seven to Eternity Volume 1: The God of Whispers
Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Jerome Opena & Matt Hollingsworth
Most of Zhal is ruled by the Mud King, a former member of an order of super powered guardians, who betrayed his oath to seize power. He rules by means of the paranoia his whispers create and his ability to live inside the bodies of others if they allow it, in return for granting their ‘greatest desire’. Adam Osidis is the son of a father who wished to have nothing to do with either the King or his opponents, taking his family to live in the wilderness. But when the King’s soldiers arrive to make him an offer he can’t refuse, Adam realises that it is impossible to remain neutral in this struggle. He joins forces with six other super powered heroes to fight the King, but he cannot simply be killed because if this happens then every other person he has connected with mentally will also die, thousands of innocent people. As the title tells us, this is the first volume in a series, with the second part due for release this October. Conceptually it is the most inventive of these four graphic works, offering us a unique equivalent to such orders as the Jedi Knights in the form of the Mosak and their individual powers. Author Remender brings his seven heroes to telling life on the page, giving each of them quirks and traits that make them memorable, and perhaps also hint at the way in which they can be undone, the rivalries that will tear the group apart. While Adam might be the lead, there is no doubt that the star of the story is the Mud King, with his invasive power and the moral dilemmas that its use inevitably pushes to the fore. He is the book’s most striking creation, perfectly captured in the artist’s vision of some bloated monstrosity but with steel underlying the flab and an iron will. And at the same time, despite his loathsome nature and appearance, there is something almost appealing about the King and his aims, so that he does have allies who work for him out of choice rather than being forced to do so. It is a timely reminder that even the worst tyrants don’t exist in a vacuum. The artwork throughout is simply dazzling, with each page filled with vibrant images of larger than life creatures clashing in battle and wandering through an alien landscape, with innovative use of panels, so that at times the squares seem to be almost bursting apart at the seams with the action they contain. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which gave me stuff to think about while at the same time entertaining, and I look forward to seeing the next volume in the series and hopefully reading the conclusion to the story.