Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ghosted #1

 Halloween Post-A-Day 2020, Day 7

Ghosted #1


Not like you’re leaving forever without saying goodbye


Writer – Joshua Williamson

Artist – Goran Sudzuka

Color – Miroslav Mrva

Letterer – Rus Wooton

Editor– Sean Phillips

July 2013


It’s always a pleasant surprise to encounter a book that I enjoy in the stacks of Crapbox books. Also it warms my heart to see that same book has gone on to a long and prosperous run. Ghosted is one of those books. Joshua Williamson takes the concept of a thief who can steal anything who is broken out of prison by a billionaire, tasked with stealing a ghost, and given his own crack team of paranormal investigators to do it out for a run that lasted 20 issues or four nice sized trades. If this issue is any indication, Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka did a great job with the story, and I call tell that even though the book barely touches on any of the supernatural elements in this first issue.


Ghosted give you a lot of bang for your buck, so I’m going to step aside and let the book do all the talking at this point.

And talking is right where the book drops us in. Here we have Jackson T. Winters getting his inner monologue on while serving out his time in prison. The first three pages show that Winters is a loner who is only looking out for himself. Sure, he’s taking his share of lumps too, but he’s doing what he can to survive even if his outlook is terribly bleak.


Funny how things can change so quickly. And within the span of the next three pages, change they certainly do as a very bloody prison break occurs. A break perpetrated by this very amoral young lady decked out like Deathstroke’s little sister. She’s here for one person and one person only, though. Winters.


When he wakes, Winters finds himself the captive of one Anderson Lake, a talented mercenary in the employ of billionaire Markus Schrecken. Winters asks what is on all our minds.


Luckily Schrecken obliges us with both his presence and an answer. Seems money CAN buy you anything. Anything including an actual ghost. Oh, and the means to obtain said ghost.


And those means are the skills the Winters possesses as the (not “one of”) Best thief on the planet. Sadly, those skills weren’t enough to prevent his last team from getting killed in a casino job. A job that got Winters incarcerated and his friends dead. What Schrecken is offering though is enough money to buy new friends and the freedom of his own private island. Winters is in, of course, but he has one condition…


Well, okay! Two other conditions. First, he lets Schrecken know that moneybags really shouldn’t be tampering with the laws of nature. And second, he asks for some easily obtained items and the freedom to recruit his own team to do the job. Schrecken is on board as long as Anderson gets to accompany him.


And so the rest of this long issue is about Winters picking up the people who will make up the cogs in his ghost-hunting machine. It’s neat to watch Williamson work here, setting up each player and giving us a panel or so to get to know them.


People like Oliver King, professional skeptic, and Robby Trick, occult historian and black marketeer…


Jay and Joe burns, professional ghost trappers…


And lastly, the one they HAVE to get, Edzia Rusnak, super psychic and medium…


Love that each of these players have their own personality and quirks. Williamson will have fun putting each through his or her paces I’m assuming. One person who isn’t assuming anything is Winters though. He’s working his team to the utmost to prepare…


…but that means visiting the actual site to do some reconnaissance…


And this actual creepy manor has all the trimmings. While Winters gives everyone marching orders, he requests one thing of Edzia…


To which she covers up the magnitude of the haunted infestation this place has. I wonder if that will come back to bite them all at some point?


Great beginning. Sure, it’s all setup but I can agree with an issue of nothing but that if it is done properly. Where this goes next and what pitfalls await our crew, I will be intensely interested in. Find these in the bins or online. Worth the price of admission, IMHO.

The Gate: The Dark Inside #1

 Halloween Post-A-Day 2020, Day 6

The Gate: The Dark Inside #1


It LOOKED like a horror comic…


Writer – Kevin Huckabee

Artist – Aaron Strinko

Color – Aaron Strinko

Letterer – Aaron Strinko



We should start this all off with what The Gate is and isn’t.


First off what is it? Well, it’s a “superhero horror” comic book concept that writer Kevin Huckabee wanted desperately to turn into a movie or streaming series. The Gate is, in the context of the story, a demon of some type that inhabits a human host body and makes them “become” The Gate. The Gate is a ripoff of two better ideas: the Guyver, a Japanese manga/anime/America B-movie about a suit of living armor that merges with a human and is partially controlled by it but gives him a demonic aspect AND Spawn, about a guy who dies and becomes part devil. The Gate is also the world’s best garbage disposal unit, with anything being shoved into that chest cavity disappearing forever. The Gate is also a 260 page prose novel by Huckabee put out two years after this single issue.


What The Gate isn’t is any damn good.


The art has a few pages that look decent and then others that look like someone colored Rabid Rachel. And we don’t stop with just bad artwork. The plot tries to do so much at once that you are constantly ping-ponged between present day story and a protracted, convoluted history of The Gate demon, WHILE ALSO BEING A FLASHBACK STARTED ON PAGE ONE! It is a maddening, chaotic mess with every page turn being a chance to throw you off track from what you just read.


Don’t believe me? Let’s just go take a look…


We begin in prison with this hoodied fella being grinned at by the hobo across from him in the cell. I guess hoodie guy is named Jimmy Wilson and his dad is here to bail him out. Literally.


Turn the page and we are at “Earlier that day…” when Jimmy and his girlfriend Lauren are found out while stealing beers from a convenience store. Notice the pose and angle on the “Ding” panel. That’s Rabid Rachel territory right there. The odd pose, the weird perspective, the way it makes my eyes hurt….yep, this one is going to leave a bad taste in my mouth.


Then the following page…we are in “an ancient land.” That’s it for scene transition. We just cut away to these weird beard alchemists doing god knows what with crystals to create immortality. One berates the other for having no vision and so he sneaks away with one of the crystals.


Next page? BACK to the chase started on page two. Yes, it is going be one of those books. One where the sad action sequences are diced up into tiny bites in hopes that turns them into exciting chase scenes worthy of capturing our interest. But then the writer decides that a chance isn’t what he wants so the store clerk doesn’t chase them. But he needs some kind of action, so a random gang of street toughs decides to jump the pair. 


 And then…


…the alchemist zaps a rabbit with the stolen crystal and he realizes it is something evil, so he goes to warn his master, but is too late! Because his master has turned into…


…what can only be described as one of the first draft illustrations of what the monster was supposed to look like from various close ups/full body perspectives. And the art has not improved any. At all.


But instead of following this very important development, we of course switch back to Jimmy and Lauren in one of the most confusing fights ever. Seriously, Jimmy is grabbed from behind then someone tries to hit him from the front then he’s bashing someone into the windshield of a car…and I have no idea the transitions between all of these activities. Not to mention there is a tense showdown, so I bet when we turn the page…


HOLY SHIT! They stuck with a storyline to a conclusion for a moment. Three pages of still incorporable fighting, aftermath, and Jimmy getting caught by the po-po, but at least we see it now and not after…


Whatever in the fuck is happening here. I think we are supposed to get that The Gate travels forward in time and eats an entire village. Except for the kid that the other alchemist rescues so he can “show him his big crystal.” 


And with that we know the jail cell guy is the little boy, all grown up and schooled by the alchemist and he is offering Jimmy some portion of the Gate’s power to protect the world from it’s influence and frequent city eating.


Stupid, badly done book. Not horror and I’m so sorry for throwing it in this pile, but it needed to be dealt with.


What happened in future issues? Not a clue. I don’t think there were any. And try as he might, Huckabee couldn’t get this idea off the ground. His prose novel has ZERO reviews and he won’t even allow you to read one single page of the actual book on Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. He setup a “kickstarter” type deal on Indiegogo to raise thousands of dollars to build a The Gate suit to use in a movie of The Gate, a terrible idea if ever there was one.


And sadly, one that Huckabee never gave up on, going back to that well 8 times for funding on some portion of a The Gate movie project, a move that racked up around $1,000. Not certain why the world needs a Gate movie. We already had Spawn and The Guyver movies and neither of them made back enough to cover expenses. Quit while the genre is behind, dude.


From the looks of things he did get a The Gate suit made at some point, which looks…okay, I’m going to say impressive in the short youtube of it, but seriously: the suit is only a small part of a successful character and The Gate will never be that. It is literally like money spent on a good Halloween decoration at this point. Even the comic con attendees were like “Who is that?” because The Gate will forever be a no-name hero-villain.

And whatever it is, it isn’t horror.

Infernoct #1

 Halloween Post-A-Day 2020, Day 5

Infernoct #1


Repeat after me: Tentacles do not make something Lovecraftian



Created – Mina Elwell & Eli Powell

Writer – Mina Elwell

Artist – Eli Powell

Color – Tristan Elwell

Letterer – Marshall Dillon

Editor– James Pruett

October 2017


There is no end to people who love-love-love LOVE! HP Lovecraft these days. Or at least profess to love him. Cthulhu stuffies, millions of t-shirts, games, statues, beers, bars, menu items…you name it, HP Lovecraft and his mental progeny have most likely infiltrated it.


That’s good and bad, as I think I’ve said before. It is easy to get caught up in the gloss of what made Lovecraft’s work unique and miss the actual substance of his works. To make something Lovecraftian you don’t just “add tentacles.” Lovecraft was all about normal people waking up to the realization that the real world was a hellish place where they were actually inconsequential. And not just them in an individual sense, but more of a “humanity is inconsequential.” We don’t matter and we aren’t going to be the winners at the end of this race, so to speak.


That’s why so many stories that claim to be “In the tradition of HPL,” as Internoct does, not only miss the bus, but we find they don’t even know the first thing about packing the bag for the trip.


Let me put it out there by way of example. Case in point one: Radiohead’s “Just.”


This four minute video has more in common with Lovecraft than the entire 20 pages of Infernoct and there is nary a tentacle in sight. Lovecraft was all about there are things we should not know, that if even spoken of, the overwhelming understanding of them would drive us utterly, despondently bonkers.


But too often it is tentacles and gore, screaming and mustache-twirling, protagonists that fight back instead of slowly slipping into madness never to return. So…Infernoct:


Page one is a simple title splash showing a character with tentacles wrapped around it’s legs coming from unspecified things offscreen. I pay it little mind.


But already by pages two and three the book has me worried. We have tentacles and gas masked characters talking to unseen horrors. It still isn’t off the rails, it just doesn’t give the tale a Lovecraft veneer.


Turn the page and this opening is forgotten. Here we have Sam, a silent, bad-ass girl who is “trying to turn her life around.” She does so by taking a job as a nighttime caretaker for an older gentleman in a creepy mansion.

But as we will soon see, Sam is a terrible character choice to base a horror premise around. One reviewer called her a “Buffy” which is apt if you remove the beginnings of Buffy where she was vulnerable and relatable. What we have here is buffy six seasons in. She’s jaded, hard as nails and boring when used as a horror protagonist. Especially in a tale that is supposed to have Lovecraftian overtones.


The secondary character of the guy she is taking care of fairs a bit better. He sits in a circle of lamps and doesn’t speak, giving the audience time to wonder what his deal is.


Given this creepy environment you’d think we would worry about Sam, but we don’t. She hasn’t been built up through dialogue nor visually to be someone we think of as vulnerable. This opening hinges on us believing Sam is relatable or empathic. She just IS and we are long to see what happens to her.


Night two comes and our old guy is dressed in the gas mask from the start of the book, so maybe that is the connection to that cold open. Appears he’s been visiting the tentacled old one shown to have engulfed that building’s basement. Okay, mystery solved. Everyone can go home now.


Sam puts him to bed and he mouths “bye” and this is a major revelation. Or something.


Sam meanwhile is rethinking this, but it appears to be from boredom NOT from creeping existential dread. Man this book is even missing the EASY targets.


Then she comes back to find a giant lamprey with weird tentacles latched on to the guy and sucking his blood.


So she casually scares it away with the lamp. On purpose. Because that’s what you do in those situations.


Let me be clear here: I could give two shits about Sam as character at this point. She isn’t in danger, doesn’t act like she is in danger, she has no fear or fear reaction when weird things happen…this is exactly the opposite of horror. And it bores me.


Even when the lamprey touches her and she has a weird green vision, I am bored.


And when she does in the lamprey with no effort and NO fear of the thing and the old guy starts talking…I just can’t muster any dread or worry.


The final panel really clenches it, however. The old man is going to be her mentor (like in Buffy) and she is going to get rid of monsters (like in Buffy) but the monsters are tentacle horrors instead of vampires.


*sigh*. Four issues and they have been traded, but it is a skip from me. Also take any mention of Lovecraft off this thing. It ISN’T Lovecraftian.