This is a collection of the 15 comics that make up the graphic adaptation of Laurell K. Hamilton’s second Anita Blake novel, The Laughing Corpse. Three collections are combined in this ultimate collection – Animator, Necromancer, and Executioner. Readers who haven’t yet encountered the bloody urban fantasy world of Anita Blake will be a bit lost. A quick introduction gives us the basics. Anita is a court-appointed vampire executioner but she’s also an animator, one who can raise the dead. She also has a history with the master vampire of the city…
Readers expecting a paranormal romance or happy-ever-after ending will quickly be disappointed as the story opens with Anita refusing to commit human sacrifice to raise an ancient corpse as a zombie for Harold Gaynor, a millionaire with few scruples. Her sleazy business manager isn’t much help, but Anita doesn’t have time to think about the possible consequences of her refusal as she’s immediately called to assist the police with the gruesome murder of a couple and the disappearance of their son. Next thing she knows, she’s being targeted both by Gaynor and his thugs and the most powerful voodoo priestess in the city, Dominga Salvador. Anita will have to call on all her resources – shifters, psychics, informants, and most reluctantly Jean-Claude, the master vampire of the city – to survive and find the killers. Along the way, she finds out more than she wanted to know about the history of some of her few trusted friends, continues her adversarial relationship with Jean-Claude, suffers through a sea of pink to be a bridesmaid in her friends’ wedding, and realizes she’s capable of more than she ever dreamed as an animator – but does she want the price that goes with her newly expanded powers?
It’s the characters that carry this story along and that’s reflected in the art, which focuses on faces, reactions, and emotions (when it’s not displaying bloody body parts of course). Each character has a definitive look; Anita with her mane of curly black hair and scars, ivory-skinned Jean-Claude who dresses to use his sexual allure as a powerful weapon. The police officers are carefully delineated to keep them from melting into a faceless group. Anita’s business manager, Bert, looks like the all-around nice guy he pretends to be, and his amorality only shows up in his actions and dialogue.
I can’t say how closely this adaptation follows Hamilton’s original novels, since I didn’t make it through the first one. I am, however, a fan of the comics although they’re not for the faint-hearted. Few pages pass without gruesome murders and, although the sexual content is mild and mostly implied or suggestive, these are definitely for an adult audience. The art is interesting and sharp, the action fast and furious, and Anita’s snappy dialogue keeps the story from becoming just another blood and guts horror fest. While readers will want to start the story at the beginning to pick up on all the characters’ relationships, there are enough hints in the text to follow what’s going on if you start with this volume. This will be popular in libraries that have an adult graphic novel collection and fans of the Hamilton’s work and gritty urban fantasy and horror in general.