Aiyana would rather impress her new classmates than talk about old, boring Lakota stories with her cousin, Kola. Unfortunately, this leads to a fight on the bus during their field trip to Black Elk Peak, which results in Aiyana telling Kola to go away and stop talking to her. When they arrive at their destination, the “cool” girls dare Aiyana to take a selfie from the top of the building that is undergoing repair work and is off limits to the students. She climbs up and attempts to take a picture; however, a thunderstorm has rolled in, and lightning strikes the building, sending Aiyana tumbling down.
When Aiyana wakes up, she is in the spirit world and encounters the trickster Raven who tells her she must bring four offerings to Iktomi in order to return to the human world. If Aiyana cannot do that, she’ll be stuck in the spirit world with Raven forever. This starts Aiyana on a journey of self-discovery and cultural connection as she makes new friends on her way home.
I enjoyed the storytelling and Lakota culture. As I am not familiar with their stories, I cannot speak to the accuracy, but I thought it was a good introduction to several culturally significant figures. I did not like the cartoony art style of the interior, which does not match the cover art made by a different artist. I was also confused by some of the color choices. At first, I thought the artist was differentiating between day and night, but that was not consistent. So, then I thought maybe it was to highlight the difference between our world and the spirit world, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Sometimes the art is bright and colorful and other times it is muted or monochromatic. If there is a pattern, I was not able to identify it.
I think this would make a good addition to a middle grade collection looking to add diverse stories inspired by and made by Lakota creators. A brief explanation of language and the chosen spellings of Lakota words included in the story is provided on the back inside cover.
Thunderous By M.L. Smoker, Natalie Peeterse Art by Dale Deforest Dynamite, 2022 ISBN: 9781948206464
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Representation: Anisinaabe, Sioux Character Representation: First Nations or Indigenous
The nineties were a time when a company could sell a comic simply on the artwork, of what many would call style over substance. It was a time of holographic covers, collector’s issues, and the gorgeously-rendered characters within these books all possessed a gritty, acerbic aesthetic and attitude (in short, a typical ‘90s attitude). Some might look at these kinds of characters with a feeling of nostalgia while others might simply find them exhausting. The main character in Purgatori: Witches Get Stitches, the latest Purgatori collection written by Ray Fawkes and illustrated by Alvaro Sarraseca, highlights this dichotomy.
The character of Purgatori looks more devil than vampire, complete with fiery red skin and leathery bat wings. She is a thousands-year-old vampire who sustains herself from the blood of others, not only stealing their life essence, but also their memories. Feeding adds to Purgatori’s own skills and abilities, but it also leaves her with a swirling cacophony of memories and emotions all struggling for dominance. A coven of young witches seek to take advantage of this and use Purgatori for their own selfish purpose. Purgatori must stop them before she begins to lose control of herself.
Ray Fawkes inserts some interesting folklore creatures and the people who hunt them, but the very nature of Purgatori, and Fawkes’s rendition of her, makes Purgatori a character that doesn’t seem capable of having her own identity. Purgatori is basically a cypher who absorbs the memories and personalities of those upon which she feeds to the point that she is swept away on the experiences of her victims. She even comments on how she feeds on bad people for awhile, until she becomes bad, then she feeds on enough good people to point her moral compass the other way. Purgatori has a distinct lack of agency in her long-lived existence, and with her dialogue being mainly snarky and suggestive one-liners doesn’t allow her to be a multifaceted character. Purgatori’s dialogue also affects the story. When humor is purposefully inserted into horror, it creates moments of levity in what could otherwise be suffocating darkness. When humor is used too much, it saps all the tension from the story..
Sarraseca’s artwork offers some eye-catching horror moments, such as the shapeshifters Purgatori encounters and the witches combining more than just their energies to attack her. However, it doesn’t detract from the scantily clad, centerfold-adjacent renditions of the heroine, whose uniform is a black leather bikini. Purgatori isn’t contorted into unnatural shapes that defy physics and anatomy, but there’s also no denying that Purgatori’s pin-up looks are a major part of the book’s appeal. The book tacitly admits this in their cover gallery by inserting photos of a few professional models dressed up as Purgatori among the other sexualized drawings of the book’s star.
As for this book’s purpose in a library’s collection, it might find some circulation among other gen-X and millennial males who spent their hard-earned money at their local comic shops, and in that vein, it could even be considered an artifact of a long-ago age. But unless a library has a collection featuring other pin-up fantasy comic heroines like Vampirella and Lady Death, this book could probably stand to be lost to history, or at least passed over when making selections.
Purgatori: Witches Get Stitches By Ray Fawkes Art by Alvaro Sarasecca Dynamite, 2022 ISBN: 9781524121679
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Canadian,
By most accounts, Bettie Page did not have a happy life. Billed as both the Queen of Pinups and Queen of Bondage (despite doing shockingly little BDSM photography), she retired from modeling and became an evangelical Christian just four years after becoming one of the first Playboy Playmates. She struggled financially in her later years, trying to assert control of her likeness despite most of the photos she’d posed for falling into the public domain. There is a cruel irony that Page may be more successful in death than in life, as her estate has made Forbes’ annual list of top-earning dead celebrities several times since her passing in 2008.
This knowledge makes Bettie Page: Curse of the Banshee seem somewhat distasteful. Although there were comics based around an idealized accounting of Page’s life as a model and actress published over a decade before her death, Dynamite Comics has gone a step further by publishing several series based around the idea that Bettie Page was also an agent for an unnamed bureau of the United States government. In these stories, she gets into all manner of shenanigans involving time travel, alien invaders and murder mysteries when she isn’t posing for girlie mags.
Bettie Page: Curse of the Banshee’s plot is pure creature-feature shlock. Paired with another agent named Lyssa, Bettie is dispatched to Ireland to investigate some strange murders at the request of the Irish Intelligence Agency. Bettie is chosen for this task because she and Lyssa are reportedly the best they have when it comes to supernatural cases. Soon they are butting heads with the local authorities, who are skeptical of both the idea that a monster could be responsible for the killings and that two attractive young women could truly be American spies. Naturally, the rumors of a ghostly figure are quite real and Bettie Page soon falls prey to… the Curse of the Banshee!
The script by Stephen Mooney resembles an Ed Wood movie in all the right ways. Mooney delves into some real Irish history and mythology with his discussion of how the stories of banshees were likely inspired by the Celtic tradition of keeners singing sad songs at funerals and the best keeners being called “bean sidhe”, or fairy women. This winds up having very little to do with the story, which degenerates into a zombie-fighting horror comic, as those slain by the banshee rise in its service, but it does show more craft and forethought than many horror comics.
Unfortunately, the characters are as flat as Bettie Page is not. All of the characters came straight from central casting, from the Irish cops who give Bettie and Lyssa a hard time to the priest who tries (and fails) to perform an exorcism on a seemingly possessed Bettie. Even Bettie and Lyssa don’t have much personality beyond “feisty heroine” and “beleaguered best friend.” While this does fit the genre, it is somewhat disappointing given Page was famous for the fun spirit she conveyed in her photos and the writing doesn’t quite capture that.
The artwork is similarly conflicted. Jethro Morales can draw a beautiful woman and does a good job of capturing Page’s likeness. Unfortunately, Morales’ figures seem stiff when they are required to move and many of the action sequences are (like Bettie Page herself) unnaturally posed. There’s also some incredibly obvious panel recycling, which would be bad enough if it weren’t occurring in a static scene of three characters talking while one of them is reading a book.
Bettie Page: Curse of the Banshee is rated for audiences 13+ and I think that’s a fair assessment of the comic itself. It may not be a fair assessment of some of the variant covers in the gallery that takes up nearly one third of this book’s total page count, as there are several photo covers that are fairly risque, even with CENSORED bars covering certain key areas. Fans of Bettie Page will probably find a lot they’ll want to look at in this comic, but vintage horror fans looking for a fun read should look elsewhere.
Bettie Page: Curse of the Banshee By Stephen Mooney Art by Jethro Morales Dynamite, 2022 ISBN: 9781524121372
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
If you’ve got horror comic fans at your library, they might want to check out Army of Darkness, 1979.
Just when Ash is getting his life back together, the Necronomicon finds him again and he’s sent through the vortex to 1979 New York City – and MAN, he doesn’t like that. He still remembers why he left the first time!
The comic recreates all the deadpan humor from the movie that I remember watching over and over in 1992, but you don’t need to know anything about Ash or the Necronomicon—the comic catches you up and is a complete story arc. The comic’s pacing doesn’t have the magic of the 1992 movie, though. Or maybe I’m just old now? What it IS, is really splattery. I mean REALLY splattery. More than the old movie EVER was. Ash is introduced to a non-stop parade of increasingly comical and very diverse gangs who fight for the right to be the ultimate power in NYC. Unknown to most of them, the Necronomicon has adopted one gang member leader, who can turn them all into instant goop in a word!
There are lots of funny late seventies “in-jokes” folded into these pages that only someone my age will get – so, is the comic written for the adult market? I’m not completely sure. Certainly, no teen or pre-teen who enjoys this kind of splatter-fest can afford the prices I saw quoted on Amazon. BUT Ash still has his arm chainsaw, a wicked sense of timing, and the ability to unify all the gangs into one final assault on the wicked gang leader and his followers. What will the Necronomicon do next?
Asking if there is objectification of women in this comic is missing the entire reason a comic like this exists, but one skimpily dressed woman gang member and the constant blood and death storyline place this comic firmly in the adult collection. It’s an optional purchase.
This title comprises the mini-series #1-5 from Dynamite Comics.
Army of Darkness 1979 Vol. By Rodney Barnes Art by Tom Garcia Dynamite, 2022 ISBN: 9781524121525
Mars Attacks Red Sonja is the sort of project that only comes about because of corporate fiat. On the one hand, we have Mars Attacks—a science fiction story dictated through a 1962 Topps trading card set, which was later adapted into a 1996 movie. On the other hand, we have Red Sonja—a fantasy heroine originally created for Marvel Comics in 1973 to meet the demand for a female Conan, revived later by Dynamite Entertainment in 2005.
There is no logical way to bring these two franchises together. There is also no aesthetic reason for Dynamite Entertainment to do so. The only reason this series exists is to hoist a plethora of variant covers upon the teaming masses of comic book speculators, who will happily buy dozens of comics to secure the 1:100 variant where Red Sonja, clad in nothing but an anachronistic thong, faces down a Martian death machine several times her size.
The damnable thing is that writer John Layman does a fair job of justifying this madcap idea. The story is set in the distant past of both Mars and Earth, when the Martians were an advanced and peaceful people and Earth was savage and untamed. Enter Chief Science Advisor Xi’Zeer, a xenophobic soul who dreams of a Martian empire built on conquest. He heads to Earth on what is nominally a mission of exploration and peace, but really an excuse for him to take over Hyborian Age Earth, use the helpless humans as fodder for his weird science, and generally be a jerk without the Martian Emperor around to stop him.
The only thing standing in his way, of course, is Red Sonja. Well, Sonja and a few other random fantasy heroes who are barely given names and mostly not given dialogue, so really it is just Sonja. The setup isn’t bad, but it is a bit cliché, even by the standards of genre fiction and there’s nothing done with this war between the worlds that hasn’t been done before and done better elsewhere.
The artwork is flat and lifeless, for the most part. This is odd given how much bloodshed the story contains. Unfortunately, there’s little personality to any of the human characters and the Martian villains all maintain the same expression from scene to scene, showing emotion only as their heads are being crushed or sliced by the barbarians fighting them. The colors don’t help, with most of the comic rendered in muted pastels that don’t match the vivid coloration of the original Topps trading cards or your average Red Sonja comic.
This volume is rated Teen Plus for audiences 13 and up. I seriously question that rating, given as the violence within this book, ineffectually drawn as it is, retains enough detail to be worth a 16 Up rating, at least. There are several scenes of people and horses being cut in half, Martian and human heads being crushed with viscera leaking out, and one intensive scene involving Red Sonja being beheaded. Unfortunately, while some of the variant covers in the gallery that follows the story are inventive in paying tribute to various B-movies, the actual comic book story is easily skipped.
Mars Attacks Red Sonja By John Layman Art by Fran Strukan Dynamite Entertainment, 2022 ISBN: 9781524119935
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Bisexual
Say the name “Daredevil” to a superhero fan and certain things will likely come to their mind immediately. Images of a crimson-clad figure running across the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen. Alliterative names like Matt Murdock or Charlie Cox. Few, however, will think of a figure in red and blue tights with a spiked belt and a pair of razor-sharp boomerangs, for few recall that there was a superhero called Daredevil long before Marvel Comics first published the adventures of their own Man Without Fear.
This Daredevil is now in the public domain and has been pressed into service in many series by many publishers, including Image Comics, AC Comics and First Publications. To avoid legal battles, he’s been renamed Reddevil, Doubledare and the Dynamic Daredevil. Now, Dynamite Comics have put their own spin on the character with Death-Defying Devil.
The Devil presented in Our Home is a man of mystery, even to himself. He appears out of nowhere and comes to the rescue of a young couple threatened by gang members. Soon he’s adopted by them and the other tenants of a boarding house under siege by gangs and crooked police officers. All of them are in the employ of a sinister businessman called Donovan, who has an interest in acquiring their home for himself. The Devil becomes the unlikely champion of these oppressed people, though his own grip on reality is shaky at best and it is unclear if the demonic forces he sees himself fighting are an illusion brought about by Donovan or part of his own madness.
Gail Simone’s script is full of psychodrama and the story of Our Home is open to interpretation. The Devil could be a madman in a colorful costume who suffers from PTSD and some other mental illness. He might also be, as one of the tenants suggests, an eternal warrior pulled across time and space by the wish of a ghostly girl. In either case, the story runs wild, with the Devil hallucinating that he’s a barbarian, an Old West vigilante, an actor playing an Old West vigilante and an old man in a corrupt nursing home at different points in the narrative. In any case, the story benefits from at least one rereading so that all the points of view may be considered.
The artwork by Walter Geovani is fantastic all around. Geovani is one of the most underrated artists of his generation, being capable of working in a variety of genres. Simone’s script gives Geovani a workout, allowing him to draw superheroic action, sword-and-sandal fantasy and Western adventure. Geovani even manages the seemingly impossible task of making an action sequence set in a hospice with an octogenarian hero seem lively and exciting.
Death-Defying Devil: Our Home is rated Teen+ for audiences 16 and up and I consider that a fair rating. While far less graphic than your average R-rated movie in terms of language and sexual content, this is a very violent book, with the hero cutting a gang member’s ear off In the first fight scene and the action escalating from there. While no ethnic slurs are used, there are also several scenes where the minority tenants are threatened with racially intimidating language by Donovan’s henchmen that are uncomfortable to read and could be triggering for some readers. The same is true with the threat of rape many female characters’ experience. This is balanced, however, by the book’s message of empowerment and the climax, in which the tenants make their own heroic stand against the forces of evil.
Death-Defying Devil: Our Home Vol. 1 By Gail Simone Art by Walter Geovani Dynamite Entertainment, 2021 ISBN: 9781524114817
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Ambiguous Mental Illness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
While not hard to follow for a new reader, The Boys: Dear Becky serves as an epilogue to the 72 issue series The Boys and is intended for fans of the series.
Set 12 years after the events of the series, the comic follows Hughie as he receives a diary with entries by Billy Butcher. These entries are presented as flashbacks to the timeframe of the series featuring the eponymous boys: Billy Butcher, Mother’s Milk, the Frenchman, the Female, and the Colonel. Thinking his time with them long past, Hughie finds himself slowly falling back into old habits as he reads through Billy’s past.
Writer Garth Ennis penned the entire series, and returns for this 8 issue mini-series. He writes “arsehole” characters well, as he seems to have many of these tough dude archetypes present in works like The Boys and more famously Preacher. However, as this story takes place both before and after the series, we end up getting a reflection on Billy’s brutality and overall demeanor as a character. Ennis writes a story that deconstructs Billy as a character, but unfortunately I think it relies on too much foreknowledge of the character’s actions in the overall narrative. For example, Billy’s violent side is described early on in the mini but we never really see it until near the very end of issue seven. Sure there is a fight scene and a maiming of a superhero early on, but the reckless Billy Butcher everyone is afraid of never appears until too late in the narrative for a new reader to care.
Artist Russ Braun also previously worked on over twenty issues of the series, so his depiction of fan favorite characters like Hughie, Annie, Billy, and the rest of the team will be familiar to longtime readers. Braun likes to make his characters expressive, with Hughie’s underwater face in one panel or the headshot cutaways to Billy after he makes headway on a plan. Interestingly enough, because of the ending of the series, there are not that many superheroes left in the world. This results in the 2020 scenes feeling more grounded in reality than the flashbacks to early 2000s when the celebrity crazed superheroes ran amok.
Overall, I would not recommend this title to libraries who do not already own the entirety of The Boys. Not only is it not a great introduction to the world, it woefully fails to clue in the reader to why any of what is going on matters. If a new reader picked it up off the shelf, they probably wouldn’t know this is actually volume 13 of a series that ended in 2012. Unfortunately, there is also a trans character in the book who feels a little off in the voice they were given. I am not sure if the character is carried over from the series, but I found the handling of Bobbi’s story to be distracting from the overall narrative.
Dynamite suggests this for mature readers, and I definitely agree with the rating. Language, blood and gore, references to genitalia, and even depicted sex acts are all included. If you have ever seen Garth Ennis’ work before, this content warning shouldn’t really shock you, but I’d compare his overall aesthetic to a more vulgar Quentin Tarantino at times. Again, I would not really recommend this title unless your library already owns The Boys.
The Boys: Dear Becky By Garth Ennis Art by Russ Braun Dynamite, 2021 ISBN: 9781524119904 Publisher Age Rating: M
Most people know of Elvira, the character created and played by Cassandra Peterson, from her TV and film appearances. They might simply recognize that particular iconic look: big, dark hair; short, tight, dress; and white makeup with black lipstick. Horror fans might recognize her as the Mistress of the Dark, a purveyor of schlocky B-movies that feature buckets of blood and bad acting. There was even a time where Elvira’s face was on everything from T-shirts to cardboard cutouts in beer aisles. Elvira is not only a character; she is most definitely a brand, a brand that fits all things both spooky and silly. Spooky and silly are, for better or worse, the main adjectives that describe Elvira’s latest foray into comics, Elvira: The Shape of Elvira.
The story follows the character of Elvira as an actress who gets a starring role in a movie directed by big time horror director Billy Bullworth, which could mean big money and perhaps an Oscar (specifically mentioned by Elvira). This movie is, of course, a movie about a scientist falling in love with an Amazonian river monster (confession: it was a few days after reading this comic that I realized the title was actually a play on Guilermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water). Art, of course, imitates life as Elvira begins to sympathize with her monster costar, who may not only be an actual monster but also a prisoner. Elvira, with the help of a nerdy but endearing writer, investigates, and hijinks ensue.
Those familiar with the character of Elvira will feel at home with the overall tone of this piece created by writer David Avallone, as well as his depiction of Elvira. Elvira has always been known as a character who’s quick with the quip and the double entendre, a fact that pushes this title into an older teen/adult rating. Elvira, whether she’s hosting B-movies or actually starring in them, is a character who has always straddled the line between gothic beauty and self-deprecating sarcasm, bombarding her audience with one-liners even as she navigates various outlandish situations. The situations she finds herself in with this story are no different. Apart from a writer with whom she adorably flirts, Elvira is the star of the show, with most of the appeal of this title coming from her reactions to the various weirdness around her.
Fran Strukan’s artwork is passable, serving the purpose of the comic’s narrative tone, but is also inconsistent. Elvira has the typical big hair and tight dress that she has worn for decades, despite still looking like she’s all of 25 years old, but she also looks nothing like Cassandra Peterson, the actress who brought her to life. For a story so focused on an iconic character, that may be a cardinal sin. The river monster does, however, strike the right balance between a monster and an emotive character, but the humans overall look somewhat generic. Readers can tell the difference between characters by their outfits and their body builds, but faces largely look the same.
The faults of this book can be overlooked by its true audience, the longtime fans of the Mistress of the Dark. There are those out there who have collected memorabilia with Elvira’s face and body on it for decades. The title does capture the spirit of who Elvira is as a character, her humor, her down-to-earth appeal, and that might be enough for fans, but it might become an issue for librarians deciding what to put in their collection and weighing how many Elvira diehards among their patrons would want them to get this book. For me, I’d probably skip this one unless there was a high demand for the Mistress of the Dark. There are frankly better books, even better horror comedy books, with which to build a graphic novel collection.
Elvira: The Shape of Elvira By David Avallone Art by Fran Strukan Gardner Dynamite Entertainment, 2021 ISBN: 9781524111977 Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Full disclosure: As a feminist, I jumped into this ready to hate it. Impossible female body proportions? Check. An oversexualized housewife with an unfathomable penchant for both pleasing her bland husband and seeking bloody vengeance? Check. A nubile Japanese school girl trope? Check. At first glance, Jennifer Blood has all the makings of a generic graphic thriller. And, yet, I absolutely loved this book. I was immediately drawn in. Ennis uses common comic book archetypes only to deconstruct and invert them.
Jennifer Blood centers around Jennifer Blood aka Jessica Blute. Blute is the perfect housewife by day. She is dedicated to her children, keeps her household spotless, and works ceaselessly to please her husband. And, yet, by night, Jennifer pours herself into a tight latex suit, grabs a few weapons from her secret artillery closet in the basement, and commits mass murders. With the ultimate goal of avenging the deaths of her parents. Jennifer ruthlessly hunts down those responsible (along with any innocent bystanders that happen to be in the way).
What begins as a run-of-the-mill vigilante story turns into a complex rumination on the inherent violence in humanity, gender roles in heteronormative relationships, privilege, family, honor, and identity. The reader watches as Jennifer slowly unravels; her crimes become sloppier, her relationship with her children becomes tainted, and the cracks in her marriage begin to show. What we find is that Jennifer may not want a perfect life, but simply the image of a perfect life. Ennis’ writing is stunning in that he is able to fully encapsulate and convey all of this to the reader. Simultaneously, Ennis’ story and writing mimic that of a revenge exploitation film. Character dialogue is fun, engaging, and witty, if not particularly realistic. And, like any true exploitation film, there is plenty of sex and violence.
This work is very specifically for an adult audience. Nudity, sexual violence, and gore are all heavily present throughout the comic. Though illustrated in beautiful, vibrant detail, imagery throughout the comic should be taken into consideration when providing reader advisory. For those readers not turned off by the content of the comic, any comic enthusiast will surely be able to appreciate Batista’s artwork. Batista has a knack for making even the most gruesome violence look absolutely gorgeous.
Jennifer Blood is an excellent recommendation for any graphic novel fan interested in crime thrillers, mystery, and the complexity of the relationship between antiheroes and villains. Additionally, Ennis, as the creator behind the acclaimed Preacher and The Boys comics, has a built-in fanbase that will surely look forward to seeing his new work in the library collection. Do not hesitate to add Jennifer Blood to the shelves of your public library’s adult graphic novel collection.
Jennifer Blood Omnibus Vol. 1 By Garth Ennis Art by Adriano Batista, Marcos Marz, Kewbar Baal ISBN: 9781524108625 Dynamite, 2019 Publisher Age Rating: 18+ Series Reading Order: https://www.goodreads.com/series/86888-jennifer-blood (Wikipedia or Goodreads)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits:
Army of Darkness is already a well-established cult classic, with the wonderfully pulpy dialog of Ash and cheeky, only kind of spooky, Deadites. Mixing in the band Kiss only heightens the camp factor and takes it to eleven, with each Kiss member using magic powers specialized to their theme and lyrics from their songs all over the dialog and issue titles. This comic is as wild as attending a Kiss concert, only to be pulled through a portal created by the Necronomicon and sucked into the Medieval past and being forced to fight Deadites to survive.
Let’s be real: few people come to Army of Darkness for its high-handed, critical acclaim. It’s enjoyable because it’s the perfect B movie, both terrible and fantastic. The writing in this comic is solid, but it’s not going to win awards. There are great references to Bruce Campbell as a person and actor outside of Army of Darkness and a general sense of meta to the whole comic. Overall it’s also oddly heartwarming, considering the general mood both zombie fiction and metal often has. The very picturesque ending to the comic is perfect for that campy tone, though, and is very fitting with the time period the comic is set within.
The art is fairly consistent throughout, though there is one section where Demon is recounting some backstory to Ash and the art switches to a simpler, flatter style, I think for comedic effect—like when characters draw what they’re talking about—but it’s incredibly stiff and awkward looking. There are a lot of very plain backgrounds and simple landscapes throughout; most of the detail is focused on the characters themselves instead. This is understandable, considering how high detail Kiss’ outfits are alone. But it is a little disappointing to have so many backgrounds just be a color fade, even if that’s what the sky is supposed to look like at that moment.
What fascinates me about this comic is the incredible niche market this potentially is appealing to. Fans of Army of Darkness are a much smaller group than fans of Kiss, so the cross-section feels rather tight. There are quite a lot of references to Kiss and Kiss fan culture, and I have to admit I periodically felt like I was missing the cues. Reading this without any information on how Army of Darkness is supposed to go would fall kind of flat, I believe. The whole point is that this story is something of a ‘what if’ situation that allows for the splicing in of Kiss.
Surprisingly, the comic is also not terribly bloody or gory. When there’s fighting, there are definitely moments of big blood splashes, but there aren’t detailed scenes of intestines or brains. It’s all very clean, considering there are zombies and heavy metal. This is such a quirky comic, I’m not sure exactly who I would recommend it to. Fans of Bruce Campbell and Kiss, of course, but outside of that, it could appeal to anyone who enjoys campy humor.
Kiss/Army of Darkness By Chad Bowers and Chris Sims Art by Ruari Coleman ISBN: 9781524107611 Dynamite, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: T+
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