Your chimney is as good as invaded.

*Charlie Brown and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can burn in fucking hell forever. Here is the new holiday standard - this week’s column. It’s a heartwarming tale of Christmas miracles and the triumph of simple humanity, and it has already warmed millions if not dozens of hearts across the globe. Red states and blue can join hands over this one; please, share this column with your families, and read it to your children. Or even just children that are nearby - they don’t have to be yours. This column is my gift to all of you individually, as well as the whole of American letters. Merry, merry Christmas, and do come back next year, when I can hopefully begin rerunning the damn thing ad infinitum.

*And just to play off of some of the concerns raised by the above fable:

Jason X Special #1 (of 1)

I actually got the ‘terror’ variant, by the way.

It’s entirely possible that this book might work bast as a sampler for those wondering what Warren Ellis’ upcoming Avatar horror book Blackgas is going to look like - the artist here is Sebastian Fiumara, who will be providing visuals for the Ellis book too. Fiumara is only known to me for his short contributions to Avatar’s intermittently released (to put it mildly) Lovecraftian anthology Yuggoth Creatures, his cover art on Alan Moore’s A Hypothetical Lizard, as well as his inks on his brother Max’s pencils for a number of Avatar projects, such as Nightjar. I was impressed with Fiumara’s Yuggoth Creatures work, dark and suggestive and sooty; it worked very well in b&w, affording the project a whisper of burnished illustration among the more explicit and direct entries of Juan Jose Ryp and Jacen Burrows.

Here, however, Fiumara has stripped down his style to respond to the needs of color (provided by the unfamiliar-to-me Mark Sweeney, apparently giving Avatar workhorse Andrew Dalhouse a rest). What emerges is some smooth, simple character designs, thickly outlined, with just a touch of Fiumara’s charcoal atmosphere haze, most evident on the page in which Jason is blasted by lightening, blips and coughs of white erupting from his chest as pebbles sizzle in the air. It’s good stuff, though the coloring does a more thorough job than usual of instituting a type of ‘house’ look on the book, though again, perhaps it’s just Fiumara himself accommodating the necessities of full-color licensed comics.

As always, Brian Pulido scripts, to surprisingly weird results. Unlike the other three horror licenses that Avatar is working with, which by necessity exist in some sort of hazy in-between state vis a vis filmic continuity, this one is a direct continuation of the Jason X film, utilizing the final scene of the film as its opening pages. The movie was a goofy, slapdash affair, which started out terrible but heroically clawed its way up to passable amusement by the final scenes. And initially, Pulido maintains the humor, offering up a pretty funny sex scene (partially excerpted over at Progressive Ruin the other day); but soon, things take a turn for the surreal, as the ghost of Jason’s Mother (or at least some kind of computer program that thinks it’s the Voorhees matriarch) tales over a scientific lab, possessing hologram mechanisms (a literal ghost in the machine) to simulate typical campground slaughter sites, sending Jason chopping up robots that appear to be copulating teenagers. There’s also something going on with the last surviving couple of a near-extinct civilization, who need Jason’s ever-regenerating tissue samples to help their race survive (irony at its best).

None of this makes a ton of sense, though it’s probably the most successful of these four introductory specials because of it - aided by Fiumara’s art, the book adopts kind of a cheeseball dream logic, bouncing from event to event, mixing abrupt campsite carnal skewerings with androids belching flame and tiny insect robots crawling over Jason’s eye. Par for the course with these things, it all feels like a set-up for something else (and indeed, Avatar already has the two-issue Friday the 13th: Jason Vs. Jason X coming up from writer/artist Mike Wolfer), and it’s not as much creepy as garish, but the same could most certainly be said for the source material this time around. Indeed, maybe by hitching the wagon to more recent, gratuitously aware icon horror junk, Avatar has found the perfect specimen for this ongoing experiment in over-the-top licensing shenanigans.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Paranoid #1 (of 3)

On the other hand, this new miniseries extension of the dream-based horror franchise has little in the way of Jason X’s unconscious pep, despite also issuing from writer Pulido. It’s actually a rather schematic book, dutifully moving from dream sequence to dream sequence, all of them predictably sadistic, all of them ending in just the way you’d expect, with just a bit of ongoing plot drizzled in the gaps. If the initial issue of the current Friday the 13th: Bloodbath miniseries derived some fun from its wholesale embracing of every slasher cliche under the blood-red sun, this book errs in adhering too closely to the more particularized Elm Street formula, without enough verve added to the crucial dream sequences to quite pull it off.

That’s a shame, especially since it’s Juan Jose Ryp on art, whose detail-crazed style would seem to loan itself well to gruesome flights of fancy. In addition, Ryp (unlike Fiumara) probably benefits from the addition of color (it’s Dalhouse here), the discriminatory force of which wrings some added coherency out of his b&w art, which often dispenses with such niceties as shading or line width, constantly inching toward incoherence through volume, page by page. And there’s some good visuals, at certain points - the vision of a girl literally falling to bits, her skin reduced to deli slices, has some nasty kick, and Ryp’s character design for the heroine’s shifty father is wonderfully sweaty and wrinkled.

But Pulido just isn’t offering too much of interest. The miniseries is a direct continuation of the prior A Nightmare on Elm Street Special (even visually evoking the prior book’s death scenes in its opening pages), peeking in on the town of Springwood, which has managed to suppress the slumbertime rampages of Freddy by denying his existence en mass and covertly pumping the local teenagers full of dream-suppressing drugs. But now there’s a nasty shortage of the elixir coming up, and the local kids are getting curious as to what all the adults are trying to hide. But this is just a skeleton on which inevitable-feeling dream sequences are hung, all of them synching up perfectly to their accordant character’s predominant personality trait (the bulimic girl sinks into a river of vomit! the overachiever is lead on a graduation march to death!).

They’re not all that interesting (both the characters and the dreams), and reading a book like this the absence of such interest is like trying to breathe in outer space - there’s nothing to sustain you. I guess I can still fathom how the connecting plot might turn out to be sort of fun, but the now two books worth of execution isn’t getting my hopes up. For a book dependant on dreams, this is stunningly rigid stuff.