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"Stand By For Mars!"
The Call of Reviews

The Call of Reviews: Reviews by Matt Sanborn

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The Crazies: A 4-comic Set to Accompany The Crazies motion picture

In 1973 George Romero released his unheralded and most under-rated masterpiece, The Crazies (Aka Code Name: TRIXIE). The film was the progenitor to his Dawn of the Dead style mayhem and story telling; focusing on a group of five survivors who refuse to be rounded up by army soldiers in NBC Suits. Because now Hollywood is completely devoid of fresh ideas, and the courage to seek out new scripts, this strong anti-Viet Nam war movie has been remade, and will premiere to the public on February 26th, 2010.

The original, set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, Evans City, (pop 3,416), has a military plane crashing into its outskirts, containing vials full of a bio-toxin which slowly drives the town's citizens into maddened irrationally violent behavior. The federal government, using mostly the military, overtakes the town and contemplates a nuclear strike. The re-make will follow somewhat of the same storyline, but is placed in Idaho.

Image Comics, (Spawn, Deadwood, Megaton Man), has released a set of four comics to coincide with the release of the film. The characters in these four comics are not the main characters in the movie, but rather four minor characters, whose stories the film's creators wished to flesh out in comic book form.

Those familiar with Image will expect quite a bit from the company that brought us the very good zombie series The Walking Dead. TWD has garnered many fans over the years for its deep character development, constant drama, wicked violence and constantly morphing storylines, standing it out in a very tired genre.

Issue one of The Crazies: "Hopman Bog" was written by Ivan Brandon, (Final Crisis Aftermath: The Escape), with the art of the first 14 pages done by Jon Buran, and Chris DiBari manning the last nine. Their styles are quite similar and the panels flow together seamlessly, although Buran's work is a bit more shadow oriented.

Brandon's story begins with a fighter pilot emergency parachuting out of his plane and becoming lodged on a tree branch above the ground somewhere in the woods. The airman pleads for help into his communication system, only to find he has been infected by something, or is becoming a zombie-like creature for some other reason. We are never told. The rest of the script focuses on a paranoid pig farmer, waging a cold war within himself and those neighboring his land, whose swine have become aggressive carnivores.

The story is basic and moves along a predictable course, suffering from stale dialogue, with a violent ending not that surprising. We are never told what becomes of the crashed pilot.

Although the storyline and dialogue are predictable, Brandon is able to keep away from complete cliché, making the magazine a fairly passable entry into the horror comic genre. The artwork, though capable, seems a bit out of place, with the last panel unable to convey the terror and drama that it should.

Issue two, "Dwyer Creek," by Brian Reed, (Spider-Woman: Origin), with art by Hugo Petrus, (Raise the Dead), is the superior of the two. The art seems heavily influenced by Creepy and Eerie magazines of the 1970s, and that's not a bad thing. Those reading along can note page 15, where one figure is the centerpiece of the page, with panels behind it as the best example. Petrus' artwork helps the story quite a bit. It is alive, intense and well thought out, helping glide the reader to the ending we know from the first panel is all but inevitable.

By strict definition of a tragedy, the horror genre being its most extreme extension, we know that all the characters are doomed. The job of the writer is to hold the audience throughout the work to the point of their demise. Using several tried literary tricks, Reed does a capable job of keeping the reader’s attention in this story of one man's plunge into irreversible madness. It is nothing ground breaking, but paced out well, and entertaining enough for one to finish reading the piece without feeling they have wasted their time.

Issue Three, written by Marc Andreyko, (Torso, Manhunter), and drawn by visual artist Vincent Spencer, is perhaps the high point of the series. Spencer draws his characters over photographed backgrounds, giving this issue a unique feel. Most of the time the art is quite good, but with an occasional incorrect proportion to his figures. The writing, a first person narrative, is fairly well done and tight, with a few clichés, but overall moves the story along well.

In this story "Black Pond," we see a coroner, disappointed with the direction his life has taken him, depressed and overworked due to the drastic situation at hand, losing grip with reality. The largest problem with the issue is that the story motifs run very closely to issue two, which probably happened because the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. However, there are enough differences to make the reader feel he is not seeing the exact thing again. “Black Pond” follows the course of its two predecessors, and due to its structure, we know how things end up. Overall a decent entity, but it would have been a more exciting had it not followed something very much like it.

The series ends with a bloody thud with the extremely disappointing "Ogden Marsh," (Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, artist Rashan Ekedal). The first thing that jumped out at me about the writing is that Fialkov comes closest in the series to the original themes of the movie were, but glosses by them, making me think he did it by accident, rather than understanding the material here. We have seen his cookie-cutter characters in endless bad zombie films and comics, and we almost know exactly what they will say and do panels before they happen.
Ekedal seems to be very inspired by E.C. Comics and the horror artists of the Seventies, but his stuff lacks any subtly the master artists possessed, and looks more like what the creepy-kid-who-could-draw-and-sat-next-to-you-in-homeroom would whip up before classes began. What the artist here fails to understand is that we have seen all this gore and violence before, and it is not shocking. Because it fails to shock us, it falls flat, and seems completely overdone. The truly great horror artists Graham Ingles, Jack Davis, Johnny Craig, Richard Corben, knew exactly what to show and what not to show; Ekedal has no filter and his vision of utter violence fails to impress.

In "Ogden Marsh," there is the proverbial "surprise ending." However, because the characters are so poorly fleshed out, (pardon the pun), and the story lacks such little excitement, that the reader doesn't care what happens at the end. Plus, the surprise is so predictable and unimpressive, that it adds nothing to the story. For you Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fans think Werewolf or Space Mutiny.

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