Writer: Benito Cereno
Artist: Nate Bellegarde, Jacob Baake and Randall Whiteis (colors)
Publisher: Image Comics
This is a solid addition to the family of quirky supernatural titles such as The Goon and Hellboy/BPRD. What we have in this one-shot, subtitled "De Mortuis," is a collection of stories featuring Hector Plasm (duh!), a spirit detective with strange abilities imparted to him at birth. Half of the stories have already seen publication as back stories in Invincible and Western Tales of Terror, while the other half are apparently original to this issue. These new tales make the overall presentation flow properly, incorporating slight connective elements to link the stories, creating a complete work that can be read as a whole. Even with this emphasis, you can definitely tell which stories work and which don’t, no matter how much doctoring went into the whole. However, with a solid concept such as this and a creative team who cares about the quality of their collaboration, this is an issue that just about every comic book fan should check out, particularly those readers who like their material on the quirky tip.
The first story in the collection, "The Haint," slightly confused me until I had read the entire issue and came back to it. Basically, the story concerns a grizzled Southern man telling a story about a creature called (you guessed it) the Haint. Later, we see that the story is being told to a tied-up little girl. Since the man thinks he is the next victim of the Haint, I assumed the girl was there because he was scared to die alone. Enter Hector in his first appearance of the issue, as he takes his glowing green sword and slices through the narrator. Wha? It wasn’t until later in the issue that I realized that the Southern man was a ghost and the Haint was Hector Plasm coming for him. I really believe this tale should have been included later in the issue after first time readers like me have been introduced to Hector. Then, the nice juxtaposition of this tale wouldn’t have lost some of its power. But, barring the placement, this short is a nice mixture of Sixth Sense and the aforementioned Goon.
Next is a story titled "Skull Creek Reservation," which stands as probably the weakest story out of the seven. It’s a pretty cut and dry take on Poltergeist, revealing very little about Hector’s character. Through two stories, I had low expectations for the rest of this issue due to the randomness of the tales and the lack of connection I felt with the main character.
Then, the third tale, "Born With a Sillyhow," explains what this guy Hector has been up to in this issue so far. This is a great origin tale that boasts Japanese culture, Hippocratic Method, and Hindu Mythology, with a little Kill Bill for added flavor. Benito Cereno shows off his creativity here, giving Hector an origin that is truly unique, not likely to be forgotten by any reader. Also, Nate Bellegarde’s art really works here, as we see the different stages of Hector’s life presented with kinetic action panels, expressive eyes, and a smooth flow from present to flashback and back. This would have been the ideal tale to lead off this collection as it shows readers what Hector’s motivations are and how he came to pursue and investigate spirits.
We transition directly from "Sillyhow" to "Ghost Town," where Yu Yu Hakusho meets The Man With No Name. Yeah, it’s entertaining and the panels by Bellegarde are well drawn for mood, but I found that I really wasn’t into this short as much as I should have been. Being a huge Western fan, particularly Sergio Leone’s masterpieces, I found the story a little too cliched to work, even though I liked the wittiness of the final panel.
"Hector vs. the Mummy" is a story written and illustrated by Bellegarde, concerning Hector’s ill-fated trip to a museum. As with the previous story, the action looked good, but the short was a little too straight-forward in style and presentation for me to get excited. And, again, the final panel had a great witty line: “I honestly wish I could say that aging 10 years in 20 seconds was the worst thing I’ve experienced, but it’s only one of many.” Funny!
I really enjoyed the next tale, "Clanton House," because this is a perfect example of the quirkiness and pop culture references that fill this issue. Hector gives his impressions of why Civil War locations are haunted (interesting theory) as we see a tourist meltdown over perceived racial overtones on a tour of Clanton House. The tourist calling Hector “Edward Scissorhands” is great, and so is the appropriate ending.
Finally, we have "Wilfred Hall," which is my favorite story out of the collection, possibly because I first read it with all of the information concerning Hector swimming around in my mind. This story mixes humor, horror, action, and heroics into one satisfying crock of soup, with a Wolverine homage for kick. C’mon, Mr. Cereno and Mr. Bellegarde, you can’t honestly tell me that when Hector busts out the claws, you weren’t thinking of our favorite short mutant? Yes, if there’s one tale to pull from this entire issue, this would be it because it wraps up everything we have learned of Hector Plasm and his stories into a neat little package. Wilfred Hall is a great way to end the collection and, combined with the thought-provoking epilogue, makes me want to visit Hector again in the future.
Some organization issues aside, this is an issue that is worth the 6 dollar cover price simply because of the total entertainment value within. Hector Plasm may seem like a poor man’s Goon, but there are a lot of storylines for development introduced in this issue, so there seems to be a long life ahead for a character that hunts the deceased.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!