Comicscape: Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight- Bee Vixens From Mars! (Mania.com)
Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Welcome to Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. As we have been doing since Sunday, we turn our attention to comics that are perfect for All Hallow’s Eve!
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight- Bee Vixens From Mars! (by Alex de Campi and Chris Peterson)
As a curator of cult cinema at a repertory theater, my fellow committee members and I deal in all manner of horror, exploitation and shlock cinema. Some of the films we screen are wonderfully misguided attempts at filmmaking, others are a blast given the difference in acceptable culture between now and when the film was made, and others are just so bad they’re actually good with a packed house of fellow z-grade cinema lovers. Trying to capture that authentic “Grindhouse” feel in the here and now is not an easy task, some very well liked auteurs have failed miserably in their attempts. In the great scheme of storytelling it’s just damn near impossible to make something “bad” on purpose, yet make it truly worth one’s while. Some might say “Just turn your brain off and enjoy it!” but life is too short to waste time on pure crap. Give me crap with balled up fists and a boatload of style. Kick my ass and make me like it. Alex de Campi gets this, refreshingly, and makes Grindhouse; Doors Open at Midnight one of the few successful comic book attempts at capturing the sub-genre.
The book opens with Jimmy, the local Sheriff who’s out of beer on a hot summer night, and is determined to rectify the situation before the liquor store closes in a few minutes. The man is so determined he completely ignores his wife, Betty and her best friend, Arlene finger-feeding each other gobs of sticky honey. The scene is literally dripping with innuendo (and honey, and cleavage), just like any self-respecting exploitation/sexploitation story should. It may sound over the top (and is), but it works because de Campi writes pitch-perfect dialogue, and is not trying to give you fan service. Instead she’s trying to stage a scene that humorously titillates, and gives us everything we need to know about the world we’re entering. The next scene at the liquor store continues the streak of fantastic dialogue, de Campi has an ear for the bored and rural, as well as the little details that make a world of Bee Vixens from Mars believable; it feels lived in.
Once we’re introduced to Deputy Garcia it’s pretty clear she will be our kick-ass protagonist. Seriously, can you name another small town cop with silver hair, an eye-patch and favors a shotgun? Garcia is clearly out of place visually, and has a classic “Grindhouse” look (she could kick Machete’s ass with a stare), but once again, it completely works because the creators never draw attention to it, she just is. So many writers fall into the trap of devoting far too much time to all their silly ideas, thinking the audience is running with the joke, but nothing can kill tension or stakes like never taking yourself seriously. When the action ratchets up in this book it’s for keeps, even if it involves crazy ass bee mutations from Mars.
Take note, folks- this is how it’s done. Alex de Campi knows her genre, and artist Chris Peterson perfectly compliments it. Bring on issue #2!
The Witching Hour #1 (by Various Writers/Artists)
This is, I believe, the fourth horror-themed anthology from Vertigo, with 2011's "The Unexpected" and "Strange Adventures", and 2012's "Ghosts". Each volume has been worthwhile, and I hope Vertigo continues the tradition.
This time around the theme is "Witches", but it's a decidedly loose one. There are as many real world horrors (abuse, war etc.) as there are supernatural, and that's not exactly a bad thing, but I was personally hoping for a bit more of the latter from a comic that is released in time for Halloween.
The overall standout stories are "Daniel", "Birdie" and "Rise". "Daniel" starts the anthology off with some traditional supernatural witchiness, but has a nice emotional pay off, and reminds me of an EC Comics story with a bit more heart. "Birdie" shifts to a future-world Cape Town and presents us with an intriguing protagonist. The final two panels of the story get surprisingly deep and melancholy in the best possibly way. "Rise" ends the book with a well-done story of no-frills possession, and Tula Lotay's art is phenomenal.
There are some charms in the other tales, but some just need more room for the story they are trying to tell, and others are too abstract with little payoff. However, on the whole, the art is spectacular. I've been a fan of Emily Carroll's for quite some time, and her stuff on "This Witch's Work" is great. Same goes for Ming Doyle, her art along with the blue/grey and orange color scheme elevate the story she visualizes.
The Witching Hour is definitely worth the pick-up, even if it's a bit light on horrors. The stories and their creators are below:
"Daniel" (by Steve Beach)
"Birdie" (by Lauren Beukes and Gerhard Human)
"Mars to Stay" (by Brett Lewis and Cliff Chiang)
"This Witch's Work" (by Annie Mok and Emily Carroll)
"Legs" (by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Ming Doyle)
"Fellow Travelers" (by Matthew Sturges and Shawn McManus)
"Little Witch" (by Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske)
"Run Ragged Part Three: "Gone to the Dogs" (by Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham and Victor Santos)
"Rise" (by Mariah Huehner and Tula Lotay)