Monday, November 05, 2007

Comics: One if by land, two if by werewolf.

As regular readers of ANTSS know, yours truly has got a serious soft-spot for that most wonderful of horror genres: the mash-up. Tell me you've got a movie about a zombie outbreak, and I may give it a look if I'm not otherwise engaged. Tell that your movie take place in the 1800s and features zombie cowboys fighting zombie Indians, and you've got my attention. Tell me that the zombie outbreak was caused by the mad experiments of an in-exile Dr. Frankenstein and it is up to Billy the Kid and the Wolf Man to save the day- well, then, amigo, I'll be there.

Today's mash-up de jour is Revere: Revolution in Silver. This four-issue mini is now available in a high-quality hardback collection by Archaia Studios Press. Archaia has been responsible or some of the more interesting titles on the fringe of the caped-do-gooder besotted comic biz. They brought out Lone and Level Sands, a graphic novel that retold the story of Exodus from the point of view of Pharaoh. They're also the cat who published the strangest breakout title in recent memory: Mouse Guard.

Revere continues Archaia's tradition of putting out high-quality stuff that avoids treading the same ol' masked superduper hero territory. The debut series for both writer Ed Lavallee and artist Bond, Grant Bond, Revere takes the opening days of the American Revolution and filters them through a horror/action lens. Set in Ye Olde Colonial America, the titular hero is none other than the Paul Revere of the famous midnight ride. Only, in this alternate reality, Revere belongs to a secretive society of adventurers called the Order of the Silver Star. Apparently, beginning with the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, there's been a curse on the colonies. The members of the Order are dedicated to fighting this supernatural evil. Think of them as the 18th century predecessor to Hellboy's BPRD.

As the story begins, Revere is frantically hunting down a pack of ravenous werewolves responsible for a hundred or so victims throughout the Massachusetts colony. Because werewolf hunts are one of those human endeavors that just seems to attract complications, Revere's work gets derailed when he finds himself swept up into the opening battles of the American Revolution. More trouble comes on black wings when one of the revolutionaries, the Reverend Tobias Hodge of Old North Church, is suddenly and inexplicably beset by a flock of bloodthirsty Harpy-like creatures.

The plot of Revere is a bit overpaked. Lavallee has to juggle redcoats, werewolves, revolutionaries, the Battle of Lexington, swarms of harpies, and the characterizations of a cast of eight significant characters and dozens of bit parts. He also manages to weave in historical allusions and excerpts from the writings of Longfellow, Emerson, and Poe. And all this in just four issues! This isn't to say that Lavallee does a bad job. In fact, I think he does a swell job. The crux of the problem is that the job is simply bigger than four issues.

Bond's art is also pushed to its limits. It seems some times that a sort of photo-reference driven hyperrealism is slowly taking over the comic world. It is good to see artists like Bond still working in a cartooning medium and working it all so effectively. Bonds characters are vivid, his splash pages (especially the one depicting the "shot heard round the world") are exciting, and his werewolves are excellent. Seriously: Bond's werewolves are these enormous, bristling, pissed off things the size of bears with mouths like blood-spattered steel traps. These are werewolves that could well tear their way through entire colonies! The colors are moody and somber. Without the restraint the coloring provides the action and violence would seem almost-too cartoony. The mist-shrouded backgrounds occasionally make everything feel a bit muddy and confused, but overall the effect is suitably grim.

For a first-time outing, Revere is a strong debut. A one-page add in the back promises a second series: Revere: Salem's Plot (a pun on King's Salem's Lot perhaps). I, for one, am looking forward to it.


Anonymous said...

Now if they could tie-in the headless horseman from Sleepy Hallow, that'd fit right in with the series..

Anonymous said...

I'll have to check this one out.
BTW, have you ever seen BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF?
I like it alot, but it's an odd combination of several genres, which may be off-putting to some.
It's a horror film like JAWS is a horror film, arguably, it's something other than a horror film with occasional horror elements.
Well, JAWS has much more horror elements than BROTHERHOOD. But BROTHERHOOD opens in a very JAWS-like manner.
It's also an 18th century period piece set in France, has martial art dispensing native Americans, and is inspired by a historical event (the Beast of Gevaudan).
Anyway, I just recently saw it again and think it's great.
But, I could understand some detractors.

Oh, and a couple weeks ago we had a comic book show in town, and one of the guests was a local writer, Joshua Jabcuga, who has a four part mini-series at IDW (SCARFACE: DEVIL IN DISGUISE) and a story adaptation in DOOMED #4. So talking to him was very cool.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Cattles,

I have seen Bro of the Wolfies, but it was a long time ago. I remember it being a visual knock-out though a bit weak in the logic department. Still, that things got its place - 'specially when you've got some badass in Native tatoos handin' the beatdown outs like they were candy corn on Halloween.

You might not believe this but Buffalo has come on several occasions over the past week. Seems several Brooklyn musicians and artist are shufflin' out. Seems the low rents and the solid artistic community (of which you are a vet) are the reasons.