Editor's Note: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter the Laughing Corpse #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, November 5.
Plot: Anita finds she must face a powerful vaudun priestess, if she wants to find a kidnapped boy whose family has been horribly murdered. But the priestess has a hefty price in mind, not to mention a series of tests.
Comments: We're well into the second Anita Blake novel adaptation now, and the tone is far more intense than the first, which took its time getting up to speed. The vicarious thrill in Laurell K. Hamilton's novels is their liberal mixing of genres: part police procedural, part zombie holocaust, with werewolves, cults, witches, ghosts and other horrors competing with gunplay a constant in every case. And then, occasionally, there's a decadent scene of graphic romance. Or bondage.
Those became more commonplace in later books in the series, but things were still grim and gritty in the first few novels, and this one hinges on evidence of splatter and gore. Anita and her police pal Dolph open the issue investigating a disturbing scene of carnage in an eerily grim and quiet suburban abode. Dolph lets Anita run the scene, in a manner she finds condescending as he knows she knows more about the supernatural than he does. For it clearly wasn't a gang of wild bikers or a serial killer who did in this family, but rather some sort of creature … that ate them.
Anita often bristles at being underestimated (as she's a tiny, alabaster-skinned woman, it happens a lot), but she always goes toe to toe with both her allies and her enemies, trying hard never to compromise her principles unless as a sacrifice when a life is at stake. Here she learns she must pay a visit to Dominga Salvador, a woman who has sought her audience in the past and been rebuffed. Anita, as an active Christian, doesn't practice voodoo; she raises the dead for pay, and she has a license to kill the undead as well. But it turns out her grandmother did practice voodoo, and she's being a bit disingenuous when she denies any knowledge.
Ron Lim seems to have found his ideal haunt on this title. I wasn't much of a fan in years past (following Marshall Rogers on Silver Surfer was an impossible act to match, and following George Perez on Infinity Gauntlet was nearly as damning), but he did good work for 2099, and here he's kept Brett Booth's sexy tone and improved on the storytelling clarity, even adding a wicked sense of humor.
Lim nails that violated homestead, especially capturing the dispassionate air of the police as they stride past horrors. He lives up to the amusement of Anita at home, surrounded in every room by her stuffed penguin fetish. But none of that really prepares one for the horrors that await her at Dominga Salvador's house, especially in the dark, especially in the basement. Just as Lim made a kewpie doll ballerina look devious when depicting the villain of the last arc, here he makes you believe a sweet old grandma might be hiding a curvy knife up her sleeve, and much worse under the stairs. Well done!
The creators seem to have gotten the hang of translating a complicated series--and its contradictory main character--to our chosen medium. Hopefully they'll be as good at the action scenes when they come as they are at instilling a sense of creeping dread in this issue.
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