Raiding the Racks for Horror

Greetings all, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading and watching, but a woeful amount of blogging. Nothing’s really struck my fancy in a big enough way to get me typing. That is, until I went to my local comic book store this Wednesday and was struck by a pretty good idea for a post.

Here’s three things you can and should pick up at your own comic-slinging establishments.

I wrote up Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’ limited series Crossed a while back. Color me surprised to see Crossed: Family Ties #1 on shelves this shortly after the original series came to a definitive close. But fear not! Just because Ennis has handed the reigns over to another writer for this sequel/spin-off, does not mean that Family Ties is a knockoff/money grab. No, this is grade-A all the way baby. It’s written by the supremely talented David Lapham (Stray Bullets, Young Liars) and illustrated with a wonderful sense of motion by Javier Barreno.

Family Values focuses on a whole new group of survivors (a large Mid-Western family) and pits them against the “crossed” a deranged horde infected by an unexplained virus. Ennis had some scummy survivor characters in his original roster, but Lapham takes this idea of “humans are the real monsters” one step further by making the patriarch of the Pratt family just as despicable as the crossed themselves. The first issue was just as twisted and disturbing as Ennis’ original series and, luckily, never suffers from the much feared “been there, done that” feeling of most sequels.

Area 10 is a hardcover graphic novel that is part of Vertigo’s new “Vertigo Crime” imprint, and boy is it fun. Written by Christos Gage, Area 10 is part police procedural and part Seven-style thriller (or MPD Psycho, come to think of it) with an added psyche-out/supernatural element to spice things up. Despite the large page-count he has to fill (nearly 200), artist Chris Samnee (who has an awesome sketchbook/blog here) is more than up to the task, and turns in some truly terrific black and white compositions.

What Vertigo is trying to do with this series is admirable: bringing back crime comics in a high quality, one-and-done format. I’ve heard mixed reviews of some of the other titles in the series, but if Area 10 is any indication I will be picking up a few more as soon as I can spare the cash.

I could probably have spent a whole post talking about how cool this book is, but that would spoil the fun for you, and make me have to write more. So there.

There’s been a lot of Stephen King work in comics lately, but they’ve been adaptations (The Stand, Dark Tower) and none of them (I believe) have been written by the man himself. Enter Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque’s new ongoing series American Vampire. In the series’s first five issues Snyder splits each page count with King and they both write stories taking place in a separate time period. In the first issue released last month, this worked absolutely flawlessly. Snyder’s half of the issue deals with a young actress dealing with the pitfalls (and fangs) of 1920s Hollywood while King’s half details the origins of a mysterious cowboy in the 1880s.

If #2 has a major flaw, it’s that it’s no #1. There are some growing pains and quite a few pages are taken up with clunkily delivered exposition. Despite this shortcoming the art remains top-notch and there are some interesting twists in vampire lore introduced.

It’s too early to tell how it will fair in the long run, but American Vampire is off to a very promising start. I wonder how King got involved with the project, but I imagine that Vertigo is seeing sales boosted immensely by his name. That said, I also suspect readers may prefer Snyder’s half of the story to King’s, which good news for Vertigo as is a strong reason for them to stick around once King’s tenure is over.

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