Shadows on the Grave 1 (December 2016)

Shadows on the Grave #1

Corben does horror anthology. Except for the feature story, everything moves quickly and perfectly. There’s a narrator, there’s a variety of disturbing situations–all beautifully rendered in various Corben styles, smooth to rough to smooth–it’s perfect. Except the feature, which lacks the other entries’ effective, accessible, plain narrative style.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, and letterer, Richard Corben; editors, Katie O’Brien and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 5 (June 2015)

Rat God #5

The final issue of Rat God has multiple surprises. First and foremost? The conclusion. Corben has the reader’s imagination, he has the unseen horror element down, but the way he uses it is unexpected. He has all this built-up fear to dispell. And he does so with a mix of story and of art. Rat God feels very complete.

The second surprise? A big action sequence. Corben goes wild with this 1920s speeding car chase and escaping danger action. It’s an awesome change of pace for the series. Somehow Corben got the idea to put all these familiar elements together and bring out something entirely unexpected.

He’s very careful, very deliberate. Even though the art is essential, it only works with this writing. Corben’s really putting together some great horror comics. He’s not just leaving his mark on the genre, he’s moving it forward while he leaves that mark.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 4 (May 2015)

Rat God #4

Having a hero in Rat God is sort of weird. Corben almost wants the reader to still actively dislike Clark; there’s just something annoying about his face. You just don’t like it. And he’s mean to the little native girl who wants to run off with him.

Because Rat God takes place in an uncharted land, even though it’s just up in the mountains of the first issue’s Lovecraftian New England town. But in mixing Lovecraft, Native Americans and hidden protagonists, Corben’s made something sort of new. It’s like a horror story for PBS. If PBS did more original dramatic programming.

This issue moves too. There’s the opening action sequence, which has a lot of lush imagery but Corben doesn’t let it get in the way of the progress. It’s great art this issue. And the end sequence–a costume ball–a Richard Corben creepy costume ball–is simply gorgeous.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 3 (April 2015)

Rat God #3

Everything changes in this issue of Rat God. And not just because the coloring looks more traditionally Corben. It changes because Corben makes his rube of a lead, Elwood Clark, the protagonist of the series. Only took three issues but it’s worth the wait.

At first glance, this issue–and its cult–seems familiar. Shades of Wicker Man, shades of the Cat People remake. But it’s Corben, so he’s running these more modern horror movies through a filter–it looks like a mix of Val Lewton and Will Eisner (the cultists’ robes are particular).

The series didn’t previously seem so cinematic–it was more a American Gothic Lovecraft thing. That element is still present, but with an actual protagonist the tone changes. Especially since Corben forces the reader to reexamine him.

As does the coloring style. It’s shaded lusciously alongside Corben’s already luscious lines. It’s maximal, not minimal. Fantastically so.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 2 (March 2015)

Rat God #2

It’s a weird issue of Rat God, which is also a lot of Corben’s point. He isn’t mixing genres, but he is throwing Lovecraft alongside some Native American folklore and just plain old wives tales. And who better to illustrate it than Corben himself.

The issue’s confusing–if the guy walking in the snow is the series’s frame, it didn’t make enough of an impact last issue (so much so going through a couple times, there’s always a disconnect between a couple scenes)–but it’s also got really good scenes. Corben’s dialogue contributes to the setting. As “British” as it might feel, it also feels undeniably American.

And not just because of the town full of rat people, something Corben doesn’t even hint at resolving yet. By the end of the second issue, he still hasn’t revealed why the series is called Rat God.

He’s doing some great work here.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 1 (February 2015)

Rat God #1

Even with some really bad narration from one of the characters, Rat God is off to a fantastic start thanks to Richard Corben. The book is that sturdy combination of great art and inventive, terrifying storytelling.

While there are apparently going to be some Lovecraft nods, Rat God starts out with a couple Native Americans on the run from some kind of danger. It’s Corben illustrating the American wilderness; the scenery is jaw-dropping, gorgeous. Great colors from Corben and daughter Beth Corben Reed.

The story’s fine. It’s creepy and looks amazing. But then Corben changes up the comic completely with the introduction of an obnoxious white guy and reveals the comic’s set in the 1930s and this guy knows the Native American girl from the opening, only as a “modern” woman.

It’s a lot of information for a first issue, but Corben handles the mood perfectly. Except that narration.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher 2 (June 2013)

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While Corben had a sense of humor in the first issue–the lead, Allan, is always bumping into things–he really plays it up this issue. There are a bunch of fight scenes and about a third of each one is for comedy, maybe because Corben knows his goofy English guys look funny engaging in fisticuffs.

The big reveal isn’t much of a surprise–even though I haven’t read the Poe story, lots of other people have through the years, including media creators–but Corben plays it out well. The one problem with the comic, which is clear from the first page, is the narration.

It’s not poorly written or anything (Corben has an amusing narrator, Mag the Hag), it’s just getting in the way of the artwork. For the non-action scenes, it’s okay, but the grand finale is beautiful and the text boxes obscure the art.

Marvelous stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher 1 (May 2013)

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With the exception of the decaying corpses, Richard Corben actually goes for bright and well-lighted for Fall of the House of Usher.

I’m unfamiliar with Poe’s source story, but Corben has a protagonist called to visit an old university friend. They’re both artists and the friend–the titular Usher–has taken to doing incredibly like life portraits of his sister.

Corben’s art is just fantastic; he’s constantly surpassing himself this issue. He’ll have one unbelievably great page and then do another even better one.

The tone is particularly interesting too. He goes for uncanny, with only the occasional flash of something visually disturbing. There’s something going on behind the scenes–something the protagonist doesn’t know–and the reader’s acknowledgement of its presence is what makes the comic so uncomfortable.

The cliffhanger seems a little forced, but it’s otherwise excellent work. If only Corben could do twice as many pages.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm (November 2012)

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Richard Corben adapts Edgar Allan Poe’s poem in The Conqueror Worm. The poem, reprinted at the end of the comic, doesn’t have much narrative (if any). So Corben stitches the poem his own narrative, which feels a little like Hamlet, but it all fits. Corben does well with angry men and forbidden lovers.

There’s a lot of design to Worm. Corben meticulously composes the panels–one can tell, without even reading the afterword, he feels strongly about Poe and wants to do it right. There’s a lot of mood to the comic, but not necessarily the space; Corben uses smaller panels for mood and action.

The end of the story comes with a morale… or at least the implication of one. The poem itself does not and Corben has a complicated finale, which leaves Worm to sit with the reader after he or she has finished.

It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Ragemoor 4 (June 2012)

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Instead of going for a subtle, gothic horror style finale, Strnad goes obvious. The entire issue–from Lovecraft-type tentacle monsters fighting with dinosaurs and giant living rock people–is oversized, but those scenes work in their context.

The epilogue, which features a somewhat grounded Ragemoor, is just plain cheap. It did require me to look back and confirm some events, but it’s not thought provoking. Actually, it would have been a better setup for a sequel than anything else.

There’s a lot of gross stuff in the issue, beautifully illustrated by Corben. But two big visual surprises in such an otherwise restrained comic are a little much….

The series peaked relatively early and, for the most part, the ride downhill is okay (except the final drop). A four issue series isn’t enough for all Strnad’s ideas. He does manage to make the unlikable protagonist sympathetic though.

Ragemoor‘s okay enough.

CREDITS

Writer, Jan Strnad; artist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Ragemoor 3 (May 2012)

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Strnad moves things along with unexpected haste this issue. I suppose he feels the need for a big finale and uses this issue to set it up. It’s a good issue, continuing–with less showmanship–the grandeur of the previous issue, but there’s something missing.

The tragic romance, which turns out to be more like tragic lusting for the protagonist, gets some closure here. Only none of it makes any sense, since the object of the protagonist’s affections is all of a sudden competent to some degree. Previously she was portrayed as a scatterbrained at best.

A month passes (or three weeks, I can’t remember) between the previous issue and this one, so she might have just gotten better. But Strnad never explains. He doesn’t have to explain, it just would have been nice if he had.

It’s a good issue, with some unexpected developments, but it’s constrictive, not expansive.

CREDITS

Writer, Jan Strnad; artist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Ragemoor 2 (April 2012)

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While the first issue of Ragemoor was competently written gothic stuff from Strnad and great art from Corben, the second issue is something else entirely. It reveals this wondrous–albeit horrible and sometimes disgusting–world, something Strnad would’ve been better to do the first issue.

The weird orangutang of the first issue are actual weird orangutangs, not just the embodiment of the castle’s evil. There’s also the suggestion of the world immediately surrounding the castle, which plays in a little.

As for the protagonist, Strnad develops him in a tragic gothic fashion. His butler is a little more interesting, just because the protagonist is the dumb young manor gentleman.

Strnad gives Corben some great things to draw, from the basement battlegrounds to the walls of Ragemoor. They unexpectedly teem with life.

The finale is exciting, touching and a little sad. Strnad heaps on the foreshadowing, in a true gothic fashion.

CREDITS

Writer, Jan Strnad; artist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Ragemoor 1 (March 2012)

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Ragemoor is, unfortunately, the story of a haunted castle. Hence the rage. It may be situated on a moor, but no one establishes it in this issue.

Jan Strnad’s script feels a little like he intentionally took a backseat to Richard Corben’s artwork, which is fine. Strnad’s script does its job. He introduces the setting, introduces the characters, introduces a crazy old man who wanders around naked peeing everywhere.

It’s a haunted house story, with only a couple surprises and those surprises don’t have much bearing. If they do, that bearing is in a later issue. Here, it just seems like Strnad is trying to keep the reader on his or her toes.

With the exception of one panel, the Corben art is fantastic. It’s moody, it’s scary, it’s grandiose. It’s hard to even imagine a better-looking haunted castle comic book.

Ragemoor doesn’t reinvent the wheel, just rolls beautifully.

CREDITS

Writer, Jan Strnad; artist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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