Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tomb of Terror - Marvel's One Shot - Any Good? ....Read on True Believers

TOMB OF TERROR #1 (One-Shot) 

STORY: “Descent of The Beast” (Man-Thing), by Paul Hornschemeier. “Silence” (Son of Satan), by Rob Williams. “The Cure” (Werewolf By Night), by Joe Pruett. “The Heist” (The Living Mummy), by Joe R. Lansdale. 

ART: Man-Thing, by Mark Texeira. Son of Satan, by Pablo Peppino. Werewolf By Night, by Jordan Raskin. Living Mummy, by Giuseppe Camuncoli. 


REVIEW:  Mark Mackner

Greetings, ghouls and ghosts, guys and gals! OK, so maybe there aren’t any actual gals reading, but let me just cling to my fantasy, will you? It’s these little illusions that keep us going sometimes, you know? Anyway, Tis I, Poptards’ resident Spider-Man scholar MARK MACKNER with a review of Marvel’s Halloween spook-tacular, TOMB OF TERROR!!!! 

And who better to consult about HORROR COMICS than life-long comic geek and horror film luminary MARK MACKNER, eh? No one, that’s who. I knows my comics and I knows my horror. Two of my most intense passions, truly. I pick up Marvel and DC’s Halloween offerings every year, and I really do look forward to them. Halloween is just a more fitting holiday to celebrate in comics, when compared to the others, with their messages of peace, joy, and togetherness. 

So how does Marvel’s new TOMB OF TERROR rank among past Halloween offerings from the Big Two? Well, usually, they go the humor route, with DC’s entry last year serving up several of their big heroes in a mostly light-hearted take on All Hallow’s Eve. And a few years back, Marvel had their wonderful MARVEL MEANS MONSTERS series of one-shots, featuring the likes of FIN FANG FOOM, DEVIL DINOSAUR, and other monstrous Marvel creations not seen since the glory days of TALES OF SUSPENSE and JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY. But, again. Those were all fun and games, though I kinda wish they would go that route every year. Really, Marvel. We deserve a FIN FANG FOUR adventure once a year. I can’t be the only one who’d love to see that. 

But this time, with TOMB OF TERROR, they’re really getting dark and gritty. HOW dark and gritty? Well, it’s actual HORROR this time, folks. Presented in glorious BLACK & WHITE, just like the recently resurrected CREEPY. So, yeah. Totally different mood here. No jokes. No irony. Just a straight up, old-school horror comic. People get ripped in half, infant triplets are murdered, werewolves eat hikers. Hey, I’ll take it! It’s a classic formula, the horror comic anthology. I don’t get these too often, so it’s a fun holiday treat. 

The first story, DESCENT OF THE BEAST, starring MAN-THING, is told mostly as an internal monologue. Man-Thing has been granted a brief period of consciousness as a human by Dr. Strange, and we catch him as he heads back into the swamp, preparing to become a monster once again. Some rednecks are chasing a black man, and Man-Thing interjects. 

Up next is SON OF SATAN in SILENCE. Yes, you read right. SON OF SATAN!!!! How long has it been since you’ve seen THIS character? Just the fact that it’s a Son of Satan story is cool enough, but let’s not go handing out free passes just yet. Here, Daimon Hellstrom visits the son of an astronaut who mysteriously vanished during re-entry after a space mission decades ago. The other astronauts were still in the shuttle, brutally murdered. The astronaut’s son is driven to commit evil acts by voices in his head. Is it his father? Or Daimon’s father, SATAN???? 

That’s followed by WEREWOLF BY NIGHT in THE CURE. Our hero, JACK RUSSELL (Yup, that’s WBN’s actual name) is investigating the brutal murder of two hikers in the woods. He’s attacked by another werewolf, and is taken in by an old Native American man who lives out there. This is my favorite out of the bunch. First, it’s a monster story. Second, it expands on the werewolf mythology (If one kills another, the curse is lifted), and third, it had a neat twist ending. Not bad for 10 pages. 

Rounding out the anthology is something REALLY different, THE LIVING MUMMY in THE HEIST. This is different in that it’s NOT a comic story. It’s a work of short fiction, accompanied by a few illustrations. Three treasure hunters seek fortune, and end up with more than they bargained for. You know. That story.
AAAAAANNNNNND, here’s the wrap-up!!!!!! 

DESCENT OF THE BEAST (MAN-THING): Story, C-. Story-wise, this one’s pretty blah. Man-Thing’s consciousness is quickly descending from a man’s to that of a monster. And in these final moments, he makes a human decision to do something that, while heroic in a sense, is still quite monstrous in itself. The twist was appreciated, but nothing brilliant. Art, B. Tex puts in more decent work here. Nothing revelatory, but it works well within the B & W scheme here. 

SILENCE (SON OF SATAN): Story, B. Now this story was kinda intriguing. I liked the intro in space, and where it led us. The triplet murdering was uber-creepy, and we were left with some questions at the end. What the hell DID happen to the astronauts? I like the mystery here, and was craving more. Plus, it was nice to see SON OF SATAN again, however briefly. Art, B+. This had, in my opinion, the best art in the book. Best use of B & W, easily. Simple, yet effective, with skillful use of the shadows. Nice! 

THE CURE (WEREWOLF BY NIGHT): Story, A. This was a really good Halloween horror story. Two werewolves. Old Indian guy with a secret. The voiceover bits were well-written, and there was some action in this one. Great twist at the end, too. THIS doggie is the pick of the litter! Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Art, C+. The art was OK here, but the werewolf fights were confusing. Who was winning? It was like the fights in the TRANSFORMERS movies. They looked too similar, and the B & W made it harder still to differentiate.
THE HEIST (THE LIVING MUMMY): Story, C-. Nothing original here. You’ve read this story a thousand times before, and it was probably better than this. Not that it’s terrible, it’s just nothing new. People try to get rich quick raiding the Mummy’s crypt and get ripped apart. The End. Yeah, that’s all it is.
In summary, the bookends (Man-Thing and Living Mummy) are pretty weak, but the meat in the middle (Son of Satan & Werewolf By Night) makes for a tasty Halloween treat, if you’re into this sort of thing.
And THAT is THE WORD!!!! 

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When not hanging out at The Horror Hotel, Mark Mackner can be found creating such local indie horror gems as DAISY DERKINS: DOGSITTER OF THE DAMNED!, EVIL BREW, THE HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL or: IRRADIATED SATAN ROCKS THE WORLD!, and EMBALMO!  He’s also the resident Spider-Man scholar over at geek site POPTARDS where he writes SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP.  In 2011, he’ll be directing his latest original script PROM NIGHT ABORTION!

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