Oh howdy all.

*That was a horrible fucking day.

ABC: A-Z #2 (of 6): Greyshirt and Cobweb

Ha ha, hey - remember the other day when I wondered why Rick Veitch wasn’t writing as well as drawing the Greyshirt story this issue, considering that he’d done so much solo work with the character in the past? Well I needn’t ponder any further, since it turns out that Veitch actually did write and draw this story, and Wildstorm’s site simply has no idea what the hell it’s talking about. Not the first time for that, I must confess. You know, Veitch on script and art is kind of a draw for me - I wonder how many other fans might have glanced at the official site and turned away?

Anyway, this is a good issue. There isn’t any of the visual design shenanigans in the Greyshirt stuff that Moore and Veitch cooked up back in Tomorrow Stories, unfortunately, and there’s obviously no room for the time-skipping genre tour of Veitch’s Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset miniseries, but Roarin’ Rick still manages some nice visuals (love that close-up of Doctor Claw’s squinty eyes, and the shot of Greyshirt striking a pose among a bevy of pot-smoking ladies is a killer), and the background-heavy story presentation isn’t too clunky, even if the narration is a bit much. It might just do the trick and convince folks to pick up some of those handy trades that ABC is so good about releasing.

But that’s not the highlight of the issue; no, I utterly delighted in the Cobweb material, which is presented in the style of a naughty novelty calendar for 2006. Artist Melinda Gebbie has never quite settled on a single visual style for this material, though most of her work with the character gravitates around her core affection for tightly posed, doll-like designs, dotted with gobs of glamour and instances of disarmingly direct sexuality; here, she’s more consistent in approach than usual, though colorist Jose Villarrubia unloads a wide range of impression-altering techniques. Each page features saucy text accompaniment by Steve Moore, laying out the very odd history of Cobweb and her faithful assistant Clarice, who are apparently the latest in a long line of (literally) incestuous thrill-seekers, miraculously capable of reproducing with women rather than men. Lines like “What a pair of Xmas decorations. Was there ever a stocking-filler like Cobweb, or a Christmas cracker like Clarice?” only add to the smutty resonance. There’s even a nice nod to ‘La Toile,’ the assumed name Cobweb went under at Top Shelf when one of her Tomorrow Stories exploits was famously nixed by skittish DC heads. “Most infamous of all the Cobwebs” indeed.

So yeah, nothing much to summarize. Good issue. Still expensive at four bucks, but good.

Friday the 13th: Bloodbath #1 (of 3)

First off - big points to Avatar for canny use of the ad space in the back of the book. Every single full-page ad in this issue is devoted to some sort of Avatar horror project, neatly playing into the tastes of intended audience of this series. The back cover is given to the upcoming Warren Ellis/Max Fiumara miniseries Blackgas rather than one of the licensed books, hopefully catching the eye of nostalgic horror fans picking this up on the strength of movie monsters. And even if they’re not Warren Ellis people, the very first ad after the story concludes, displayed on the page facing the final story page of this issue and thus most likely of all for the reader to see, is for an upcoming Jason book. The ads neatly bookend the usual Avatar cover gallery/order form for upcoming releases, with horror titles always displayed prominently (with all those variant covers, there’s plenty of room to fill!). Very smart set-up.

The comic itself is better than its one-shot predecessor, in that it’s a more pleasureful guilty pleasure, though quite heavily steeped in genre nostalgia - I’m not sure what slasher neophytes would make of such blunt, blood-spewing material. Experienced fans, however, will quickly pick up on how writer Brian Pulido is setting up one of those ‘utilize the clichés of the genre to reveal something different’ tricks; the thing is, Friday the 13th as a film series has already grown self-referential enough that playing around with series conventions is arguably as much a convention as the conventions themselves, which maybe makes Pulido some sort of covert traditionalist, albeit one hiding in plain sight.

Briefly, the plot follows a group of ten horny youths hired to spend a week fixing up Camp Tomorrow, the neighboring resort to the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. Gradually, it’s revealed that the kids have been cherry-picked for maximum compatibility, the highest tier of hook-up potential (don’t think about the mechanics necessary to actually pull this sort of plan off; you’ll hurt yourself). And we all know that nothing attracts Jason better than randy kids, which is what a certain shadowy organization is banking on. It’s all rather similar to the opening sequence of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, in which an attractive government agent took a long, hot shower as a means of luring Jason into (oh ho, god will never forgive me for this one) a booby trap.

Really, the book is most successful when Pulido sticks to tossing out as many classic clichés as he can: the opening sequence kill, the ‘false scare’ (involving the grounds’ retarded handyman, no less), the obligatory ’telling of the killer’s legend’ to the foolish disbelief of certain parties. Some of the more outdated tropes are dispensed with - the black guy is not at all the first to die (that position is now occupied by a pair of rednecks, complete with Chevy and Skoal baseball caps), and the necessary heroine is most certainly not virginal (we do still know she’s probably the Last Girl, since she’s an avowed comics reader and a big fan of Neil Gaiman). A lot of genre fan-service, yes, but amusingly executed. Who can resist such Pulitzer-worthy dialogue as:

ATTRACTIVE GIRL #1: “Jenna, truth or dare?”


ATTRACTIVE GIRL #1: “Are you gay?”

ATTRACTIVE GIRL #2: “I’m bi. You?

ATTRACTIVE GIRL #1: “You didn’t ask truth or dare. But I’m totally queer.”

ATTRACTIVE GIRL #2: “I knew it.”

Or, in the alternative:

GOOD-LOOKING LADY: “Cut to the chase, ladies. Watch this. Jerry, truth or dare?”


GOOD-LOOKING LADY: “Show us your junk.”

Naturally, Jason is in rare form as well. He disembowels a pair of folks and leaves them hanging in the trees. He comes across a happy couple bare-assed in the grass, mid-coitus, and stomps his foot clean through their writhing torsos. That trusty machete bisects more than one hapless soul at the waist. As I’ve said before, it’s a lot more extreme than any of the actual Jason movies have been in the better part of two decades, and that’s probably the key appeal of these books: they don’t just evoke these films, they present them in idealized form, understanding their appeal as degenerate grue dramas and going to town with it, the less expensive, less regulated comics medium freeing the material from the compromises of the screen. It doesn’t matter that the slasher-style ‘fake scare’ doesn’t work all that well on the comic page (at least not as executed here); it’s enough that the presence is evoked, on the way to the next blast of entrails.

And artist Mike Wolfer does a nice job of that; best known for the various Strange Killings series with Warren Ellis, Wolfer works quite well with colorist Andrew Dalhouse, whom I notice has begun adding some nice variation to his blood hues - there’s bits of white and purple tossed in there this time, rather than a Karo tidal wave of thick red. That’s the attention to detail these books demand, right where it counts! I can’t exactly call this thing a triumphant work of comics art, or even a terribly successful horror piece, but as far as plasma-spilling media license hi-jinx goes, it’s more than ok.