Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Weird Detective #1


Halloween 2019 Post-A-Day 31
Horror-ible
Weird Detective #1
 


Lovecraftian horrors meet police procedural!

"The Stars Are Wrong”

Story – Fred Van Lente
Art – Guiu Vilanova
Colorist – Mauricio Wallace & Josan Gonzalez
Letterer– Nate Peikos of Blambot
Assistant Editor – Kevin Burkhalter
Editor – Spencer Cushing
June 2016


A month ago, three issues of Weird Detective came my way. I plucked them all up and carried them home. Ballsy decision on my part. Too many times has this SoC gotten burned by Lovecraft inspired stuff. I think that is evident from my past reviews of retools, reworks, additions, pastiches, imitations, and other various comics that leech off of the concepts created by Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

A majority of them are horrible.

Blind buying three of Weird Detective took guts. For me it was an honest attempt at finding something Lovecraftian to review for the Halloween season. I like to throw in a title or two if I can. Makes sense, given the blog title and all.

I was about three pages into issue one when it hit me what I had stumbled onto. By the big reveal half-way through that same issue (most of which I had guessed) I was hooked. And when I finished the third, I rushed to Amazon and ordered the trade (which you should buy. Right away!)

Weird Detective isn’t just GOOD, it is GREAT. It’s not a Lovecraft story, per say. The pervasive dread aspect isn’t present and there is a general feeling that this would work as a weekly TV show in many areas. Liberties are taken with a few Lovecraft beasties. Yet by the end of the book, you really don’t care. The whole thing is that damned entertaining.

I mean that. It had me smiling from ear to ear. With no more preamble, let’s jump right in. Initially, this first page got me a bit riled up…



…that is, after I slowed my reading down to read it correctly. This is a misquote from Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and to a Lovecraft fan this appears as a blasphemy or lazy or inattention to detail. The true quote goes

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”

Note the subtle differences. It took three tries before it sunk in with me and then we were off to the races. From it I gathered three things: First off, we aren’t dealing with a human. Secondly, whatever we are dealing with has a much firmer grasp on the madness lurking out in the infinite cosmic void than we do. Thirdly, this being would probably see us through that same lense as the starting graphic slowly descending to Manhattan views us – as bugs on a window. Interesting to watch, but far beneath it.

Turn the page and we are subjected to a stream of consciousness while also watching the starting incident of a mystery we will have to solve. The narrative explains the limits of human sensation, beginning with the sight and sound. The pictures show a group of kids at a community pool in New York as they discover a dead body under the water and rush away screaming.


The flowing commentary on human senses continues, but note that the party making these observations does not see themselves as human. The book brings him front and center now, his name is Detective Sebastian Greene. He doesn’t act like most people, but as his fellow officer points out “He’s from Canada.”


And all his demeaning our five senses and distilling their number down to three should not distract us from the reason he is here at this pool…


…there’s been a murder. And it’s a weird one.

Isn’t that delicious! Not the murder victim’s method of passing, silly! I mean the two mysteries going on simultaneously. We have Greene who clearly isn’t human, so what the heck is he? And we have a dead body, gone the way of a discarded piece of clothing, sucked clean with only the outer skin remaining. Who or what could have done such a thing?

While we ponder those items, a few clues crop up and we get introduced to Greene’s new partner, Sana Fayez. Greene isn’t pleased with being saddled with anyone, he wants to go this alone. He is currently on a winning streak of closing cases. His superior is about to insist though. And as for Sana, she came to the same conclusion about how the body got in the pool, so we know she’s no slouch in the brains department.


While Greene’s supervisor lays down the law on him about taking on Sana as a partner, we get a clear indication that Greene plays by a different set of rules that us. He isn’t human, boasting of seventeen senses instead of our “three.” One of those he uses at this moment on Sana called emotionalocation that allows him to see and hear what she is thinking.


Which, incredible useful skill that it is, allows him to listen in to what she’s been told about partnering up with him. She’s a mole, sent in to see what’s going on with Greene. The reason is that up until two months ago, Greene was just another hump pulling a paycheck. Then suddenly, something changed. Greene started clearing cases, making noticeable collars, solving crimes. And for some reason, this hirer-up the chain wants to know why. 


It also appears that Sana has a past that makes her vulnerable. She is a whistleblower, but in what capacity Greene doesn’t see here.

But what he does see is that his jig might soon be up. Sana is a threat if he wants to keep his alien nature undercover. From the look on his face, you can tell this is a concern.


Greene wanders off, but Sana quickly tails him and they start talking with potential witnesses. Remember those unique methods Captain Leong was speaking of? Watch them in action…

 
The detectives are interviewing the slimy pool guy in the boys changing room, when Greene picks up on something no one else would have.


Might have come off better had he given Sana a little warning, however Greene’s “abilities’ come in handy in catching the janitor/pedo-filmmaker. Specifically Ranos…


…a reverse sonar thing that allows Greene to do the old Martian Manhunter trick to yank the guy’s ponytail. Love Greene’s non-committal smile at the end.

 

With an example like this, it is easy to see how Greene would be the asset to any police department. Whatever happened two months ago (we can start to draw our conclusions and for MOST of us Lovecraftians, we know where this is going), Greene is now an official supercop. But also, as Sana puts it so succinctly, “Deeply Weird.”
 


To which the proper response is…


As we pull out on that intuitive leap from Greene that most assuredly isn’t AND the numerous lost animal posters pointing to other potential victims of our perp…


…we fade in to an evening at the Greene residence. Dinner consists of downing a two liter bottle of diet soda pop. And as for companionship,…


Green has a cat. A cat that he can talk to using the power of Mochadin, the sense of reading the mind through the specific flash patterns along the edges of the iris and cornea. And the cat is typical of all cats: selfish, self-absorbed, but willing to help Greene out if it means it gets some benefit from the assistance it provides. I think Lovecraft would approve of this characterization.

Note that the interaction here is key as well. Greene was sent here on a mission by unknown factions. The empty skin is a lead to what that mission is about, but Greene needs time to figure out where that clue takes him. Sadly, with Sana on his tail he might not find the answer in time.


And as the body in the next room can attest, Greene definitely isn’t Greene. I love all the talking cat bits because they are not only funny, but also spot on. I’ve been a cat owner for years this is exactly our struggle.

We close scene with Greene and shift over to these two lovebirds who are shaking up for a night of debauchery in this abandoned tenement that is being restored. Come to find out they are both children of connected mob families, Raina Anzio and her guy Edgardo Nunez, The building is owned by the Edgardo’s father. It looks like a fun little romantic encounter until Raina settles in for their “picnic” and Edgardo beats a hasty retreat to the restroom.


Raina gets cozy, sees a sinister shadow, and then gets “uncozy.” She screams at it, acting all bad girl and I suppose this works.


…because the shadow vanishes. But a sudden scream alerts her that not all is well with Edgardo. She rushes down the hall to find her boyfriend crying out in pain from the bathroom. I suppose Edgardo should eat more fiber and/or drink more water.


I’d be wrong though. Edgardo is having an awful time because something has crawled up the pipes, entered his butthole, and is now eating him out from the inside! Yuck!


Raina won’t have too long to worry about this as her fear sends her racing down the hall and out of the building…unfortunately a few floors too early. She catches the fire escape on the way down, but with her cranium, ending up as a wet spot in the alley.


Next page we catch Greene hard at work studying human detective movies for inspiration of how to be a human detective. I love the Rockford Files one! 


Greene is making progress…or seemed to be when his captain calls and tells him of Raina’s body being discovered. Greene “deploys immediately,” prompting another “Canadians are weird.” 



Greene isn’t Canadian, though. And if you haven’t figured it out…if the clues of who would want to stop the stars from being right, Cthulhu from awakening, and the sinister Old Ones from returning to our universe are not prevalent enough…then the book spoils it for you. 
 

Greene isn’t here, but something is impersonating his body and holding the mind of a Yithian. And Greene’s mind is locked in the body of his abductor, one of the Great Race of Yith. Isn’t that just delicious?

We drop in with Sana, who is having an issue with her wife over who takes care of the baby that day. She’s also on the Raina investigation and has to “immediately deploy.” However, that will mean with the baby in tow, as Bev puts her foot down. 


Which leads to this wonderful bit between Greene, Sana, and her baby…


…this book is just full of fun little surprises.

And unfortunate ones as well. Raina’s body being one of those. The minor crimes division has a major mess on its hands now that an Anzio has been killed. And while it seems a crime of passion to Sana and the other detectives…



…Greene’s extra senses tells him it clearly isn’t. He uses Aushure to read the psychic footprint of Edgardo and his last trip to the little boy’s room. The body they are missing is Greene’s next clue in how to stop the coming of the Great Old Ones.



However, he isn’t free to act on any of this knowledge as his partner wants to know how he’s getting all the hunches. 


Here we dwell on Greene’s thought process. The Great Race are of one mind, like being part of the Borg collective. Being away from them makes Greene vulnerable and we begin to connect with how he sees us. It illuminates what makes him different and also humanizes his plight. To the extent that you CAN humanize a centuries old, alien race that shifts from form to form through time. I guess it is more a sense of empathy that it engenders.

 

And he sees us as monsters. And we see him…in ways so utterly different than he expects.


Utterly alien, alone, and trying desperately to fit in so he can accomplish his mission and go home. To do that they need to find Edgardo, but Greene already knows that’s a lost cause. And speaking of lost causes, Edgardo senior appears to be one, as his shop has been ransacked, and he has gone missing.



Well, not exactly missing. He’s been captured by the head of the Anzio clan who is also Raina’s father. He’s trying to find Edgardo Jr. Oh and as for the Anzio sons? They look a little fishy!

 

As in Deep One fishy! Looks like Raina’s mother wants a word with Edgardo senior…


And that leads to Anzio trying Edgardo Jr’s phone. Greene has it and answers only to hear Anzio threaten all of the Nunez clan…


…and to begin torturing Edgardo senior. All of which Greene keeps from Sana.


So that evening, while she is staking out Greene’s place for answers to his super hunches while receiving intel on the body that confirms Greene’s suspicions down to a “T”…


…she throws out a hunch of her own, owing to the body wearing biker shorts.



Her next call is to Bev, which isn’t pleasant, but does paint a picture of what a human would think of Greene’s home life, which amounts to drinking diet soda by the 2 liter and staring at his cat.


And then the “excellent plan” begins with Greene leaving.


He ends up at a public park that is a known hang out for the homeless, with Sana following closely behind…



And he heads deeper into the surrounding forest…


To where the homeless have setup a temporary campsite…complete with Elder Sign stick figures and a quick shout-out to the King in Yellow.

But Sana can’t find her target, as Greene knew she was following him and lead her here on purpose. 


Because the stars are right and soon Cthulhu WILL rise. If that happens, the Great Race will be destroyed along with everything else the Elder Gods touch. That means Greene has to stop them, here – now! At all costs, his mission must succeed.


And he can’t let Sana stand in the way of that.


We end issue one as the trap is sprung and Sana looks to be cut bait in the claws of three very ferocious human-Deep One hybrids. But don’t count her out just yet. The story has a few tricks up its sleeves.

Weird Detective wrapped up in five short issues and it has me begging for more. Sadly, the timing appears to be off as no sequel has been announced. There were plenty of places for the story to go, too. I was hoping for an ongoing or at lest another mini, but nothing has risen to the surface yet. Maybe you Crapbox readers could make some noise on this one? I certainly would pay full price for more antics of this nature.

That ends Post-A-Day, always a fun and daunting time. The Crapbox is officially back open, but no telling how many reviews I can pop out a week. My life schedule is filling up quickly. There will be more reviews coming though, just don’t expect me to edit them.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!
STAY SAFE OUT THERE!

Crossed #1


Halloween 2019 Post-A-Day 30
Horror-ible
Crossed #1



Terror! And not for the squeamish

"The Devil’s Bride!”

Story – Garth Ennis
Pencils – Jacen Burros
Inks – Jacen Burrows
Colorist – Juanmar
Letterer– unknown
Chief Mechanic – Ariana Osborne
Editor – David Marks
September 2008


I found Crossed late last year, both in and out of the Crapbox. Issue one fell with a bunch of other horror books and I read it with all the fear and terror that this one issue generates. Given it is an Ennis story, I was sucked in immediately. When a few weeks later, I saw the first trade on a Half-Price shelf, I grabbed it as well, with a feeling that mixes excitement with discomfort.


Let me get this out of the way: Crossed isn’t for everyone. It is harsh. Brutal. It is every worst nightmare you’ve had given comic book form. It will fuck you up, and if you are turned off by that language SKIP THIS REVIEW. Because Crossed will make you infinitely more unsettled than a few bits of harsh language.

With that buildup I should explain what Crossed is before dredging up the pages that will follow. Crossed is Ennis doing a twist on the zombie outbreak thing, although it has possibly more in common with David Cronenberg’s Shivers movie. The infection in Crossed doesn’t make someone the living dead, instead it…I’ll let Ennis explain it:

“The Crossed are people who – through infection – have given in to the absolute worst instincts that human beings can: murder, rape, torture, cannibalism, all of the most cruel and inventive kind imaginable. They are out of control, really. Their number one urge is to get their hands into normal people and commit every ghastly act they can think of – they can't fight it, and they don't want to..

Basically everyone infected is a homicidal maniac, of the variety even our worse horror movies haven’t prepared us for. The tell-tale sign of infection? A rash that forms a cross like welt across the infected’s face. It’s a neat visual cue and it inverts all that religious iconography as well. You can’t fault Ennis for his story idea.

Where you may be able to fault him is with his no-holds barred approach to the plot of these books. Ennis and Burrows pull NO punches, creating one of the most terrifying dystrophias I’ve come across in many a moon. It is so graphic and cruel that I feel a large number of my audience even on HERE during the month of Halloween will be turned off. It’s not because you are squeamish. It’s because it is that bleak. I can tell you that beyond issue one, the story only gets darker.

So bail out now or hold me harmless for trying. From this point forward I will be reviewing issue one in all its many, many atrocities. If you can’t finish up, don’t worry. It takes a strong heart to make it through a reality this screwed up. No harm-no foul.

We begin with no preamble, no idea what has happened. We have two people with rifles, Cindy and Stan, looking down upon a city using binoculars. The pair are trying to see if it is safe to go down. We get that immediately because this is the setup of every zombie apocalypse comic. Stan says it looks clear until it suddenly doesn’t. Then he pulls the glasses away, weary at having seen too much brutality. Cindy just curses their bad luck at being unable to resupply.



While we pull back and find out Cindy has a son, Patrick, with her, we also catch a glimpse of the atrocity going on in the town square as infected men and women perform terrible acts on non-infected victims.



Cindy, Stan, and Patrick make it back to the underpass they are hiding out in. The group is larger than just them, and that either gives them a greater chance of survival or more chance for all of these people to become victims in some mortifying way. Stan tells the guard that he will relieve him as soon as he gets a bite.


And we meet the rest of our group, huddled in the dark and hiding from the world outside. Stan has a vividly horrifying recollection about an ex-Marine he traveled with who was captured and killed. His only thought on it now as that he was glad that he didn’t tell the Crossed where he was hiding. The future in this world is bleak.

 
As he eats the meager can of beans that is supper, he reflects on what he knows about them. You can’t bargain with them. They will win in most firefights. Looting the losers is the only way to come out ahead. No one had faith or hope anymore.



No one except Joel. Joel has faith in salt.



If you listen to his story it sounds rational, almost sane. Joel had an experience. It is improbable and everyone knows it. But Joel believes. He’s a believer. He’s a believer because he has to be. It is all that is holding him together. A way out of this mess of a world he’s found himself in. People do this all the time. They believe in religion, they look to celebrities for hope, or put their trust in guns and government. We’re going to see how Joel’s hope works out for him.

As for Stan, he hears Cindy and puts his faith in something different. In staying alive and in staying human. With those thoughts, he relieves the night watchman.



…and drifts back into memories of a not to distant time. A time right after all hell broke loose. He was helping Thomas and his girlfriend Kelly, who had recently been blinded, escape from the madness that had just broken out. In the distance a large explosion goes off, but right over the fence is madness…



…and it is a madness that is right on top of them. This woman breaks through the fence. She’s completely given over to the disease and someone has shanked her good in the kidney. But even though she is bleeding out, she still wants to harm others. 



And she is enraptured by her own mutilation. The Crossed are some sick, sick people. At that moment though a savior to these people appears…



Cindy crushes the woman under her wheel and picks up all our survivors. As quick introductions are made as our characters pile in the truck. As for our Crossed, the disease removes most of our reason centers and amps up the libido. Humans reduced to less than animals.



Cindy and Stan know each other and in their chats as they jet out of town they mention recent history. They were both at a diner when the virus swept through and both of them are running on adrenalin. 
 


Cindy isn’t letting anyone stand in her way. She left the diner to get her son to safety and that’s her goal. Unfortunately her ex-husband was infected. He held Cindy’s ear and head to the stove. Right now, no one knows where to go, but Cindy isn’t waiting on anyone to solve that riddle for her. She is the series tough guy and her relationship with Stan works in that she is closed off on so many levels. Stan is not just along for the ride, but he is definitely struggling to maintain his own humanity in the wake of all this.



And speaking of waking, back in the present Stan is woken by Cindy. They have to move as the Crossed are heading their way in a sweep. Unfortunately, one of the party has an accident making it up the hill.



Joel’s wife Amy is injured and will not make it. She begs Joel to carry their daughter, shoot her in the head, and go. But Joel has another idea…



Because remember Joel still has faith that this will all work out. Amy begs him not to…



…and curses him as they are all torn apart in front of each other.



There is no hope to be had in the world of Crossed. None. Don’t bring it with you. Just run.

Stan starts to look back for them. Cindy tells him not to. He takes her advice.



And that’s where this issue ends. Brutal and unrelenting and things only get worse from here.

Crossed puts the Crapbox in a tough position. It is compelling in the way that the Walking Dead is at the best of times. You want to root for the characters to survive against insurmountable odds. You need to see them overcome this obstacles placed in front of them.

However, Ellis doesn’t let up and the story is not one that leans on giving you a happy ending. It is as Stan says, the happy ending is staying alive another day and staying human. In these type of books that is a hard fought test.

Normally I would say buy, but I’m going to be clear that what you have here is a very violent, gory, and adult story. It isn’t for the squeamish or the easily upset. But if you can deal with the bleak universe that Ellis has created, these are some of the best that the apocalyptical survival drama has to offer.