Much like the characters in the horror tales it tells, the series Tales from the Crypt seems to be able to return from the dead again and again. Originally an EC horror comic title in the 1950s cut short in its prime by a comics censorship hysteria, the property has been resurrected in movies and television series and now it has come full circle as a graphic novel series for young adults from Papercutz.
Wickeder is actually the ninth title in this series, comprised of three stories introduced by the long-time “hosts” of the title from the fifties, the Crypt-Keeper, the Vault-Keeper, and the Old Witch. Rick Parker handles the art of these interstitiary pages, striving to recreate the look of the characters introduced by the classic EC comics artists. However, his artistic style can only suffer in comparison to the old EC master artists like Wally Wood, Jack Davis, and Harvey Kurtzman. Younger readers most likely won’t know these artists, so Parker’s normally excellent bigfoot style may not make these characters look stiff, posed, and awkward as they do to more experienced eyes..
The first story in this collection, titled “Dead Dog Dies,” continues the adventures of the parody of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid, introduced in an earlier volume: The Stinky Dead Kid. This time around the kid gets a ‘deathday’ present, the bones of a dog so he can have his own pet. Of course, he still has to convince his mother to reanimate it the same way she reanimated him! Writers Margo Kinney-Petruchia and Stefan Petruchia do the smart thing and have this tale cover new ground, not relying on parody of any particular source for their mix of horror and humor. Artist Diego Jordan manages somehow to make the kid both endearing and creepy at the same time. It’s easily the best offering in this volume.
“Kill Baby Kill” is the second piece, by writer Scott Lobdell and artists James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. It follows much more closely the O Henry-style format of these short, punchy horror vignettes, telling the story of a greedy oil exec determined to drill for oil in the ocean, no matter the cost. The artists are capable of telling the tale, but the art in general feels slightly rushed, with rather sloppy inking and hand-lettering, which is particularly noticeable in the sound effects.
For the third offering we are once again firmly ensconced in parody, with “Wickeder” by writers Maia Kinney-Petruchia and Stefan Petruchia, and art once again handled ably by Diego Jourdan. In this tale, “Dotty” from Kansas goes on trial for killing the witch “Alfalfa”, which parodies the name of the witch in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. The way she defends herself is both ironic and amusing to anyone familiar with Oz. From start to finish, the story is over-the-top and totally silly, but does have a rather loopy appeal.
Overall, Tales From the Crypt: Wickeder accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to provide horror tales with a touch of dark humor. The stories are tamer than their forebears, which makes the collection perfect for the Young Adult shelves. As with all anthologies there are stories that will hit and stories that will miss, but readers who enjoy Mad Magazine will find much to like in these pages, as well as the rest of the series. For libraries and parents looking for an answer to younger readers wanting horror but are leery of too much graphic content the newest incarnation of Tales From the Crypt should fill the gap.
Tale From the Crypt, vol. 9: Wickeder
by Maia Kinney-Petruchia, Margo Kinney-Petruchia, Scott Lobdell, Stefan Petruchia, Jim Salicrup
Art by Diego Jourdan, Rick Parker, James Romberger, Marguerite Van Cook