"The Fourth Nail":Part Two
Writer: Doug Meirs
Artist: Gabriel Guzman
Gypsy Rose will surprise many a reader expecting a typical bad girl book filled with copious amounts of gore and gals in various stages of undress. While these things can be found in Doug Meirs' story and Gabriel Guzman's crisp, clean black and white artwork, the way in which each staple arises shows thought as to how each element may serve the story.
The tale begins when a hapless exploitation film Hell's Angels type calls forth a demon whose demand for a blood sacrifice provides the reason for the gore. Meirs and Guzman however do not bring out the robes, upside down crosses and virginal actresses who doff their wardrobe in the name of art. They instead throw the demon some grizzled meat and have him dine in a matter of fact fashion. The demon's table manners are depicted as if he were pulling apart a chicken.
Later the demon by adapting to his situation provides another ghoulish treat that makes you snicker and go "eeeeeew!" at the same time. The adaptation injects some new life--so to speak--into the classic chase scene, and the way in which the demon harangues the heroine of the book and the way he seems to be putt-putting toward her is pure delirious fun.
The only serious aspect in the book is the characterization of the heroine, but she does find amusement in the promise made by the demon. Thus, she does not fall into the trap of being the straightwoman for the chucklebrains on parade. Indeed, the reader's sympathy is directed solely to her. The biker gang are a bunch of lunk heads who provide entertaining popcorn moments. Gypsy Rose possesses an ethical backbone. She is on the run with the titular Fourth Nail which as one may have suspected and is confirmed through a cleverly staged flashback a reference to Christian mythology. Don't even think about sending me any angry e-mails. I'm agnostic. It's all mythology to me.
While Rose's life is in constant danger due to the Nail, she still manages to fight the demons that come her way for the benefit of all the innocent folk such as the randy gas station attendant who is way, way out of his league. She also does not behave as a typical damsel in distress. The aforementioned randy one annoys her, but she doesn't start pursuing a sexual harassment suit. A strip search perturbs her, but she doesn't overreact. She simply retrieves her clothes, pulls up her pants and gets on with business. While strip searches in cheesy movies often provide the sole entertainment value, the strip search instigated off screen in Gypsy Rose makes perfect sense. The bikers are looking for the Fourth Nail--very slyly hidden I may add in the Poe tradition. Gypsy Rose actually wears comfortable looking underwear that I can see a woman wearing, and there's more of it than the typical costume usually seen in bad girl books. Furthermore, she's drawn in such a way that respects anatomy. This is not a book for those who share Russ Meyer's obsession.
Two back up stories fill the remaining pages. A glimpse of Meirs' Para-Troop with art by Amilton Santos and Rob Lean isn't enough for me to get a bead on the story. There's already some blooms of characterization there, but the premise is still ambiguous. The big bonus comes from a warm twist on the Men in Black of urban legend. The art by John Jett and Gia Luc convey the feelings of the characters and the emotion in the story.
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