Group Editor Marie Javins, Associate Editor Jessica Chen, and “Creepy Uncle” Joey Cavalieri put a book together by essentially throwing an eye of newt and tongue of frog into a giant inky cauldron and pouring out 80 pages of naked crazy face-peeling terror.
And because somehow that doesn’t = win in my book, you know there’s something just not quite right with the recipe–or the perhaps the boil time is off. One really has to wonder how much time these artists and writers (and editors) were given to throw this holiday special together.
The cover by Michael Kaluta and Lovern Kindzierski seems to suggest “not much”, and even if that’s not the case, the quality of it holds many clues as to the contents of this book in terms of its overall offerings:
Is it a horror comic, or a horrible comic? Let’s find out!
This collection includes eight stories and half of them are Batman-related. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to focus on those four and then just provide a gossamer thin overview of the rest. This was kind of a beast to tackle and one of the things I did after my second pass through was try to find a picture that best captures how I felt about the experience of reading this comic.
Yes, that’s about the size of it, blasphemy and all.
Blackest Day: A Justice League Story (Keith Giffen & Brian Keene / Scott Kolins)
So that first picture comes from the Justice League story, in which a terrible zombie plague has overtaken the world. Of course it’s not called a zombie plague because that would be too obvious and cliché in a world where an enormously popular franchise has managed to never use the word zombie–ever.
But anyway, the opening moments in which John Constantine blows his brains out and we discover that much of the League has already fallen to this wretched virus is fairly gruesome. We then backtrack (and forward) to see the trail of infection during which Hal is attacked by a Batman who clearly didn’t have a contingency for this sort of thing. Will any of them survive?
Tons of blood and guts. Literally innards and entrails galore, violent amputations, the whole nine yards. Of all the stories, this was actually the most entertaining, which is why I put it up first. But then I like to see people get chopped up and have their intestines drop out–and somehow cannibalism always makes me laugh. Your mileage may vary.
Crazy for You: A Harley Quinn Story (Keith Giffen, Bryan Smith & Brian Keene / Kyle Baker)
We move on then to a tale of madness that took three writers to produce. Perhaps this explains its psychotic multiple-personality tone. In this story, Chuck is haunted by the ghost of Harley Quinn, who he met naked in the showers at Arkham Asylum when he used to work there. A ghost. In the shower. Wearing a harlequin hood, but otherwise naked. Still with me? Of course you are, I just used the word “naked” multiple times.
Harley proceeds to drive Chuck insane, though it’s unclear why or exactly how. He just goes homicidal and starts butchering and bludgeoning his way through the panels with gore spattering everywhere. This really isn’t so much a horror comic as slasher porn. Blood Feast has fewer buckets than this.
Anyway Chuck loses his mind. Harley taunts him. The end.
The linework is so sketchy you can’t tell who’s the ghost and who’s real in this one
Last Laugh: A Batman Story (Nick Cutter / Rags Morales)
Perhaps the less said about the spotlight Batman story, the better. Another tale of psychosis has Bruce Wayne having a meltdown in his batcave as he comes to the shocking realization that he and the Joker share something very personal (like a gym locker). Because Bruce is crazy. Get it? He’s Batman, but he’s also the worst of Gotham and so that means he’s also…
An obligatory gun-toting finale for this one is actually effective in the way that it’s rendered (with a great big POW for unsubtle emphasis), but the story is just over the top and barely coherent in its narrative.
Batman: Existential Crisis LXVII
Unmasked: A Two-Face Story (Wrath James White / Tom Raney)
For our grand finale we have a story with yet more emphasis on gore, gore, gore. And for added thrills, we make sure to throw some giant monsters and children into the mix. Because nothing says great Halloween DC fun like people ripping the faces off of children.
And once again, unironically, I would love it if this was actually as awesome as it sounds. Unfortunately, it’s not.
Instead it’s probably the most nonsensical of the four Bat-related stories. With Harvey’s descent into murder and madness apparently triggered by the arrival of a giant “Leviathan” space bug of some sort, which plummets the city into chaos. He then takes advantage of said chaos to randomly rip people’s faces off. And I guess there’s supposed to be some suspense with not knowing who the killer is (really?), and we’re supposed to be shocked and horrified when he takes the knife to an innocent mother and child. And then I suppose there’s some kind of meaningful and awesome symbology to what happens at the end, but by then it’s gotten so ridiculous I’m already turning to the next page, which appears to be a story about Billy Batson rendered by an artist who really likes Photoshop filters and fills.
One face, two face, red face, dead face….
The remaining four stories are a collection of like-minded mindlessness: evil baby Superman terrorizes Martha Kent after murdering her husband, a young woman summons the spirit of Diana to become a naked rampaging murderer, a Green Arrow on the skids meets a psychopathic Dinah in the hoosegow (eyeballs are punctured, if you’re into that), and Billy Batson is possessed by a scrap of paper handed to him by a panhandler.
All righty then.
- 80 Pages, 8 stories. That’s $1.25 per story at 12 and a half cents per page. Your homework tonight is to do the math and figure out if this is right for you. Remember: 8 x garbage still = garbage.
- Add a +1 to the score if you’re just really into all the skin-peeling and eyeball-puncturing and stabby stabby stabby.
There are many worse things you could do than read this comic: stab your wife into a bloody pulp, eat your best friend’s intestines, shoot yourself in the head, or peel off a child’s face. And if doing those things sounds awesome, you can get that vicarious thrill by reading this comic instead of doing something that will likely land you in jail or a lunatic asylum. This isn’t so much a horror comic as it is a veritable orgy of bizarre (and oftentimes nonsensical) violence. The smorgasbord of blood is relentless–as if the writers were tossed into a room and told to top each other’s awfulness or lose their typing fingers trying. Sadly there are no real winners here: not the writers who have produced a work that’s barely palatable, not the artists and colorists who had to render all this carnage, and certainly not the reader who might only enjoy this if they score really really low on a test for money management skills or really really high on a test for sociopathy.